Tuesday, March 14, 2017

What's wrong with campus carry for Tennessee adjunct faculty?

Last Tuesday, March 7, I had the opportunity to be on a panel with John Becker of WBIR-TV of Knoxville, and Don Bosch, a Knoxville attorney. The subject was a bill in the Tennessee Legislature which would extend handgun carry "privileges" to part-time employees in colleges and universities. I suggest you go watch the video HERE, then come back and read on. . .

Have you ever been in a situation where, after leaving, you have a head slapping moment, and you say to yourself, "I should have said _____!" Well, that didn't exactly happen here, but in order to present my point better next time there is an opportunity, I think it is a good idea to go back and analyze our discussion.

With that in mind, here is my analysis of that panel. Our conversation is color-coded, and I have included my observations [in green].

Becker - A big issue facing state lawmakers today is access to guns on college campuses. A new bill looks to expand guns on campuses allowing part-time employees to carry.* It came before a House subcommittee this afternoon and that bill is an extension of a law passed last year that allows full-time campus employees to carry guns. That became law without Governor Bill Haslam's signature.

[*Whether full or part-time, faculty and staff have, I assume, been vetted two or more times; once with a background check before they were hired, again, when they applied for a carry permit, and once more if they purchased their handgun from a dealer in recent years.]

Under that plan, employees would need a permit and would have to register with campus or local police before they carry on campus; and before we have a discussion about the benefits and the costs of legislation like this, I'd like you to take a look at some of the questions we're asking online.

[See my post on implementation of this law at UT HERE]

This is our Megaphone segment, and you can weigh in right now online at wbir.com or using the WBIR app, and weigh in and vote on these questions -

Is this a good idea? What do you think? [Final tally]
  • Full-time staff? [50%]
  • Part time staff? [2%]
  • Or only law-enforcement? [48%]
Weigh in and we'll talk about it throughout our discussion.

We want to turn to Liston Matthews who supports this legislation, he's an advocate for it. Don Bosch is a critic of this legislation.

And so, Mr. Matthews, let's start with you. Why do you like the idea of expanding the availability of guns on college campuses.

Matthews - Well, understand that current law actually allows a long list* of people to have guns in their vehicles on campus. They can transport and store their guns in the car. Full-time faculty, as you know from last year, may carry on campus on their person. . .this status quo is actually discriminatory against those part-time employees. I think we even see the potential for a Fourteenth Amendment suit against the state for not allowing the part-time faculty and staff the same privileges, if you will, in this case, that the full-time staff have.

[*This list includes UT students, UT volunteers, visitors to UT property, lessees of UT property, employees of contractors working on UT property, and any other person with a valid handgun carry permit.]

Becker - Don, why is it a bad idea?

Bosch - Well, I have spoken to a lot, many, law enforcement officials, certainly campus officials, people that are knowledgeable about community safety, and more guns on a college campus setting simply is not a good idea from their perspective as well as mine*. I appreciate Liston's position about the potential of a Fourteenth Amendment lawsuit, but clearly though the Supreme Court does say that you have Second Amendment possessory right to have a firearm, it does allow for reasonable restrictions**.

[*Eight statesColorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin allow the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses. There has been no harm done because of this law in those states. What data suggests that Tennessee faculty/staff are less reliable than in those states?]

[**Although the Supreme Court is considered the final arbiter of the law, it does not always get it right. See Dred Scot decision.]

And again the situation is, that there's this mythology that guns are going to make us safer in mass, and you'll talk to law enforcement, as as we saw in Austin*, recently, and some other places, when you get more guns in one place, then if you do have an active shooter situation, and you have people, while possessing a handgun carry permit, and  having some rudimentary training, you have a condition for law enforcement, where sometimes, they don't know who the bad guy is**, and, I just haven't found anybody*** in that setting that thinks that this is a wise idea.

[*Is he referring to the the University of Texas tower shooting? The one in which "many students had risked their own lives to fire back at the unseen sniper . . . " Good guys were on that campus with guns.]

[**Bad guys sometimes wear uniforms. See my blog post HERE.]

[***This is a baseless argument. It's like saying "since I haven't seen an elephant, then obviously they don't exist."]

Becker - Well, what do you make of that perspective on this, Mr. Matthews, that indeed, it can cause some confusion for the first responders who are rushing to the scene, if they see a gun, is that a good guy or a bad guy?

[Although police and firefighters are generally known as first responders, the individual on the scene that first engages the perpetrator is the true first responder. e.g. teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary]

Matthews - That is a problem. But the biggest problem is the fact that you have a time factor** involved in any kind of, we'll call these mass shootings. We're usually talking about that on a campus. And the more time that elapses until that person is engaged, the more people that die. . .by a significant factor.

[**The average number of people killed in mass shootings when stopped by police is 14.29. The average number of people killed in a mass shooting when stopped by a civilian is 2.33. This means about six times as many people are killed if the police are the first to engage the perpetrator. I don't wish to be shot by the police, but it seems the greater good is still served if less that five people die versus fifteen or so!]

The potential does exist that that faculty member, even that full-time faculty member could be engaged and injured or killed by a police officer. If I were in that position, and the police came, I would put my gun down and let them take over. But it's that TIME, that's a real, a real critical thing. They're always minutes away.

Becker - And, I want to acknowledge what people are saying online, 52 percent of folks who are weighing in now say only law enforcement should carry on campus, and you can see where the folks believe that all full-time and part-time people should carry on campus.

These are a couple of Facebook responses to this question, and you can see here Rick saying, "The more first responders there are over there, the safer the campus will be. It's that simple," responding to exactly what you said, Mr. Matthews.

And we have this note from Gabe saying, and this gets a little more political, "GOP's answer to college shootings. Add more guns. Great idea, guys."

So, Don it does get political, but in practicality you're speaking to that from a law enforcement perspective, and the testimony we're hearing from some of them that say they don't think that this is a good idea.

Bosch - That's right. I mean, you know I like to try to rely on people that are experts in the area, and I spoke with everybody from Chief Rausch to other law enforcement officials*, having grown up in a family of police officers, and I have yet to find either a campus police authority, or a meaningful law enforcement authority who says, "this makes a campus safer". And, while I respect the Constitution, and understand that we are a nation of laws, we have the Second Amendment, it says you can possess them, but the courts have clearly interpreted that you can put reasonable restrictions.

[*I prefer to check with experts in the field, such as Massad Ayoob.]

Frankly, I didn't think the law that passed last year was a good idea, but it did, and I think further expanding the law is getting the camel's nose a little further under the tent, and the next move, I see a push by organizations that support gun rights, all of a sudden, you are now gonna be talking about any permit holders, which would include students. And I haven't found many people that think that a twenty-one year old, with a carry permit, that's a good idea to have a gun on campus.*

[*Yet, wherever it has been tried, it has been successful. The sky didn't fall. Blood did not run in the streets. No OK Corral gunfights.]

Becker - Mr. Matthews, what do you make of that domino, and we'll give you the last word.

Matthews - On the other hand, there are many young adults who have seen combat in foreign lands, and come back and they're responsible adults, they have carried a weapon defending the Constitution and the Flag, and now, when they come back to the United States, and they decide to further their education, they're told, "We don't trust you anymore!"*

[*I should have said, they're told, "Thanks you for your service. But we expect you to remain unarmed and helpless on our campus.]

Becker - Quickly, would you sign on to a challenge if this bill fails in its current form? That Fourteenth Amendment challenge you were speaking of.

Matthews - I would be supportive of it. Now, signing on to it is a big question. I don't know how to answer that.*

[*The correct answer is that that I would not have legal standing in such a case, since I am not adjunct faculty or a part-time employee.]

Becker - We'll leave it there. Gentlemen, thanks for the discussion, we appreciate it. . .
The constitutional issues discussed dealt with the United States Constitution. But, what does the Tennessee Constitution have to say on the subject?
Article 1, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution:
That the citizens of this state have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.
The first question, then, that the Legislature should ask when a gun law is proposed, is "will it reduce crime?" Conversely, when a law reducing restrictions is proposed, the question is "Has loosening restrictions elsewhere increased crime?"
In the first case, if the answer is NO, then passing that bill would be in violation of the Tennessee Constitution.
In the second case, if the answer is NO, the bill should be passed! Forthwith!

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