Students Should Say Farewell, Not Hello, to Arms

    NATIONAL NEWS — What is more terrifying than a school
    shooter? Not one, but an entire lecture hall of armed and potentially deadly
    students. However, many groups nationwide have responded to recent school
    shootings by advocating a stronger presence of concealed weapons on campus.

    Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is one such group
    that advocates changing gun laws at the state level.

    The number of recent shootings has only added fuel to the
    guns-at-schools fire, which was reignited after the Virginia Polytechnic
    Institute and State University
    shootings last year. Many states have attempted legislation that legalizes guns
    at colleges, and in Utah it is
    now legal to carry concealed weapons on all public campuses. Luckily, California
    — which doesn’t have any such legislation on the table and has some of the
    country’s strictest gun safety laws — isn’t about to open this can of worms.

    But schools in Utah
    and Colorado, where students
    everywhere with the exception of University
    of Colorado
    , Boulder,
    can carry guns, are setting a scary precedent for colleges nationwide.

    And with similar legislation pending in 10 other states, the
    atmosphere at campuses across the country might be very different this time
    next year.

    Supporters of the movement to legalize concealed weapons on
    campus argue that it will make students safer when faced with a shooter. They
    will be able to defend themselves, say proponents, rather than be sitting
    ducks. But universities are not a place for firearms, and by allowing all
    students to carry guns, those schools are opening their doors to a greater risk
    of abuse.

    By filling a lecture hall with well-meaning, gun-toting students,
    schools are increasing the access a student with dangerous intentions has to
    weapons.

    While groups like the SCCC are surely advocating what they
    feel will best protect students, this seems to be a case of “the best laid
    plans.” In fact, the best way to protect students is to address the underlying
    problems that prompt school shootings in the first place.

    The argument over measures that allow students to carry
    concealed weapons is a moot one — no matter what the decision, this debate
    addresses the symptom, not the disease.

    Like sitting in an oatmeal bath to treat chicken pox, even
    the best-case scenario for a room full of concealed-weapon carrying students is
    still a sloppy, short-term fix. And what happens after the commotion clears and
    the hypothetical shooter has been shot by a student carrying a concealed gun?
    Even with concealed weapons on campus, the potential for school shootings still
    exists.

    The only way to protect against school shootings is to help
    students who feel that this is even an option. Clearly, anyone who is willing
    to open fire on his or her peers and teachers — often, random bystanders the
    shooters don’t even know — is in an extreme state of desperation. Instead of
    channeling energy into forming groups and lobbying state governments, concerned
    students should call for better mental health help at their own universities.

    Suicide is consistently the third leading cause of death in
    young people and a 1997 study reported that firearms are used in about 19,000
    suicides annually. Translate this to the university — where many students
    experience bouts of depression and undergo huge life changes, such as moving
    away from home for the first time — and these tragic shootings come as less of
    a surprise.

    But arming students is not an appropriate solution. And
    schools like UCSD that aren’t in states dealing with such legislation can still
    take a valuable lesson from the terrible school shootings. Good mental health
    services and outreach for troubled students should be a top priority at schools
    across the nation.

    Students should forget extreme measures, and states should
    forget dangerous legislation — the only way to stop school shootings and save
    lives is by making the multitude of healthy options clear to desperate
    students.

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