Even as the current semester comes to a close, I find my thoughts drifting forward to next fall and the advent of the 2016-2017 academic year. Next year, you see, will by my first in college, and as any soon-to-be freshman, I cannot seem to stop myself from fantasizing about what my college matriculation holds in store and planning for my arrival on campus. I picture myself as the quintessential college student, and so I want to make sure to bring all the quintessential college gear: The microwave and mini-fridge, the vintage sci-fi movie posters and ubiquitous Tibetan prayer flags, my iPod and iPad and iPhone and iWatch, my hoody sweatshirts and Chuck Taylor sneakers, and, of course, my Bersa Thunder Plus 15-round 380 pistol.*
I like to imagine my future as one lovely, extended scene from a college promotional pamphlet: There I am, cramming for a midterm with a double mocha in the student union or playing Frisbee on the quad, sitting in clusters of thoughtful conversation under an autumnal confetti of falling leaves, all the while packing heat and fully prepared to unleash a few dozen rounds of lead in defense of myself and my fellow classmates in the event of, say, a zombie apocalypse or Red Dawn situation, one in which the Russians (or whoever it is we're most paranoid about these days) suddenly drop from the sky in droves and try to take us all down on account of how they hate our freedom.
Just in case you're starting to think this must be a piece from The Onion, I'm sorry to burden you with some facts from reality: There are currently eight states within the USA which, under either a law or court decision, require any publically funded institution to allow firearms on campus; twenty-three additional states allow these institutions to decide for themselves whether students can carry firearms on campus; and among those states which do not allow students to carry firearms on campus, nearly half allow students to keep guns in their cars.
There are, presumably, arguments in support of Campus Carry. The Second Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees the right of its people to keep and bear arms, and with the never-ending string of school shootings and public massacres, it's no wonder that people feel an increasing need to defend themselves. But the truth of the matter is that there's very little evidence that armed citizens can prevent or even impede such tragedies. According to members of law enforcement, armed civilians are more likely to hit innocent bystanders than they are the actual assailants, and they also get in the way of police who are trying to stop the attacks.
This all makes a kind of obvious sense, if you think about it. Officers of law enforcement get training in various areas that go beyond simply hitting a target in a controlled and safe environment. Having a considerable amount of target practice under one's belt does not, after all, offer any assurance whatsoever of an ability to stay calm and maintain a steady head (not to mention hand) in a moment of extreme crisis. Officers of law enforcement are trained not to just hit their targets, but to do so under chaotic and highly stressful circumstances. If they did not receive this sort of training, they would run great risk of being impeded by the physical reactions of stress, which can include dizziness, sweaty palms, twitching muscles, confusion, mental slowness, and blurred vision. With this in mind, I, for one, am not especially reassured by the notion of countless panicked college kids brandishing their weapons at the first sign of potential trouble.
Also, here's something colleges and universities don't put in their glossy promotional pamphlets: Despite all those pictures of serene and smiling students walking blissfully across their meticulously manicured campuses or decked out in school colors and cheering on their team in football stadiums, the college years are not, typically speaking, the easiest time of life for most people. Sure, relationships bloom and opportunities abound. But so do stress, anxiety, depression, and substance abuse.
Research conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness has shown that one in four college students suffers from a diagnosable mental illness, and that 40% of them do not seek help. Add to these statistics the fact that many college students feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities, don't get enough sleep, and are likely to overindulge in drugs and alcohol, and the argument could conceivably be made for prohibiting college students from driving cars, owning large dogs, or operating gas stoves. So I really would have loved to be in the room the first time these words were said out loud: "We should let them have guns!"
Call me a dreamer, but when I envision the stresses and concerns that lie waiting for me over the next four years, I imagine panicky all-nighters finishing big papers or angsting over a sweet but ultimately ill-fated relationship, bickering with my roommate about acceptable states of cleanliness and debating over whether popcorn counts as a vegetable. I want my college-age apprehension to spring from the simple things, like if I'll someday be able to support myself in this uncertain economy or whether the planet will still be inhabitable by humans at the point I graduate. Fear of being fatally shot by a gun-toting friend or acquaintance? I've got the rest of my life for that.
*Please note: I do not own a Bersa Thunder Plus 15-round 380 pistol, would not, in fact, be able to pick a Bersa Thunder Plus 15-round 380 pistol out of a lineup of similar (or, let's be honest, not-at-all-similar) pistols; I only learned about the Bersa Thunder Plus from a YouTube video entitled, "Top 5 Guns for the College Bound," which is, I am sorry to say, a Real Thing That Actually Exists.