Concealed Carry on College Campuses

By, Morgan Crabtree

 

WASHINGTON — Students and states are butting heads over whether or not colleges should allow the members of their campus the right to bear arms.

In the course of the last 13 years, 10 states have passed legislation that, in some way, allows concealed weapons on college campuses. Utah was the first state in 2004 to legalize campus carry, making it mandatory for public universities to allow their students to carry a weapon on their campus. Following Utah came nine other states, the most recent was Texas in 2016.

However, it is not up to the students nor the administration of the school to dictate this protocol. The University of Texas is a public institution, funded by the state, which requires the school to allow permitted students to legally carry a weapon on campus.

“It does really worry me to think that someone sitting next to me could have a gun.” Sara Buffington, freshman at The University of Texas said. “I think what scares me the most is that I don’t know who has a gun on them because it’s concealed. I think overall having guns on campus is a bad idea.”

The passing of the recent legislation led to the resignation of Frederick Steiner, the dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas. The president of the University has also spoken out against the policy passed in 2016.

There are three different forms of campus carry. Mandatory, which mean once the state legalizes campus carry, public college campuses have no right to ban it. Institutional, which allows universities and colleges to choose whether or not to ban campus carry. And Non-permissive, which means that campus carry is legally banned from all campuses, private and public, in that particular state. To date, nine states are considered Mandatory, 21 states are considered Institutional and 22 states are considered Non-permissive. 

Private institutions such as Baylor University, located in Waco Texas, has the right to prohibit guns on their campus regardless of state regulation. Madison Walker, a senior at Baylor, said she believes guns should be allowed on campus.

“I think that I would feel safer with someone having a gun in the room if someone dangerous were to come in,” Walker said. My mom said that the safest she’s ever felt was when she was in Israel and everyone was carrying around AK-47s on their backs. People are less likely to be violent with guns if they know there’s a chance they’ll be shot.”

Walker suggested that since Baylor is a private campus, a solution to the hesitation of allowing guns on campus is that the school has the ability to mandate counseling sessions for those who carry a weapon to ensure they are and continue to be mentally sound.

“Although I might not agree with Baylor’s decision to continue to ban guns, I do think it should be up to the school,” Walker said. “But public institutions get government funding, so schools like the University of Texas, should have to abide by state regulation.”

Joe Ross, a long-time member of the National Rifle Association, also believes that state funded institutions should not have the ability to opt out of allowing guns on campus.

“If they want private funding, then they can run like a private institutions,” Toss said. “so long as they are a public institutions, they are at the liberty of wherever they drive from their public money, whether that be state money or federal money.”

Contrary to Walker’s opinions in regards to feeling safer with more guns present, John Hopkins University published a report in October of 2016 that debunked the idea of more guns leading to less crime. Hopkin’s report stated that out of all of the mass shootings that took place between 1996 and 2016, only 12% of these shootings took place in a gun-free zone. In other words, the notion that gun-free zones lures mass shooters is inaccurate.

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“People make the argument that the shooter could have been stopped if people were armed, I think that is a flimsy argument.”  Antonia Untalan, a freshman at the University of Texas, said. “It is easy to get a license in Texas, so it makes me uncomfortable knowing that anybody can be armed, even if they are the nicest most sane person I know, accidents still happen.

The report by John Hopkin’s studied 85 incidents of shootings, whether intentional or not, between January 2013 and June 2016. The study showed that only 2.4% of these incidents involved a mass shooter, while 12% of the incidents were accidental or unintentional. A majority, 45% of the incidents, were “interpersonal disputes that escalated into gun violence.” Another 12% of the 85 incidence were found to be due to suicide or murder/suicide.

Futhermore, Mental Health America of Texas, an organization working to promote mental health and improve care and treatment for Texans who have mental illnesses, published a report that states “because alcohol and drug use are significantly present on many college campuses, the risk of violence on campus is high; when guns are present on college campuses, the risks of harm and violence become increasingly lethal.”

“Accidents happen, especially in college, especially when alcohol is involved, I can only imagine adding a gun to that equation,” Untalan said.

On the other hand, a Washington D.C. business consultant and long time member of the National Rifle Association, also known as the NRA, Joe Ross, believes that guns should be allowed on campus.

“I think it is absurd that guns are not allowed on campuses,” Joe Ross, member of the NRA since 2013, said. “Frankly, gun owners are the most law abiding citizens in the United States because their gun rights are so important to them. They are not willing to break even the smallest laws and jeopardize.”

According to the The National Rifle Association’s website, the NRA is an organization whose “objectives include protecting the right to keep and bear arms, furthering the shooting sports, marksmanship and safety training.” The NRA has also been a longstanding financial supporter of many members of the Republican Party.

“The biggest donor for Donald Trump’s campaign was the National Rifle Association, they went all in and they went all in early.” John Schwegman, a political researcher for Every Town for Gun Safety, an organization raising awareness and funds to support more education on the handling of guns.  “What I fear will happen is this money will reflect the policy of the NRA’s needs and wants as opposed to the general population.”

According to Open Secrets, a non profit, nonpartisan research group, Donald Trump received $30.3 million in funding from the National Rifle Association during the 2015-2016 election. The NRA spent another $20 million six other republican Senators, in hopes to get the men a seat in Congress.

Critics believe that the NRA has an undue level of influence on the political system because of the vast amounts of financial contributions they are able to make, however, Ross believes that is just how politics works.

“To suggest that the the NRA is hijacking the American Political system just shows how fundamentally misunderstood lobbying and the political system works. The point of a lobbying group is to influence on behalf of the will of people’s constituents. Just because people all of the sudden believe in something that a rash of the majority of Americans don’t believe in, the like the second amendment, doesn’t give them the right to demonize the only organization trying to stand up for a right those people believe in.”

Within the first two months of Trump’s presidency, the president signed a bill to overturn an executive order made by the Obama administration that was in place to prevent persons with mental health issues from obtaining a proper guns license.

However, according to the NRA, this bill was a positive decision. The website reads that the president’s “repeal of an Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that would have resulted in some 75,000 law-abiding beneficiaries losing their Second Amendment rights each year.” However, many people believe that it is just a way to avoid giving guns to people who have been diagnosed with any form of mental illness.

The concern of mental health is already an issue on college campuses, however combining this concern with the ability to carry a gun on campus seems to pose an issue within itself.

According to the Mental Health America of Texas report, suicide prevention includes limiting the resources in which a person can complete the suicide, however with the access to guns comes the ability to carry out the suicide at an easier rate. 

The report states:

“Increasing the prevalence of guns in an area with a large concentration of individuals in an age group associated with undeveloped judgment and risk assessment cognition, higher suicide rates, and higher substance abuse rates is not prudent. Providing better mental health and substance abuse prevention and intervention services is a safer and more effective method for deterring violence.”

However, NRA members, such as Joe Ross, do not believe it is the gun that causes the accidents, but instead the lack of understanding and knowledge.

“It used to be a part of civics that children were trained for firearm safety, it used to happen as early as middle school. You know we don’t have that anymore so it is up to kids or parents who are interested in guns to educate themselves,” Ross said. “Mental illness aside and alcohol aside, there is a a degree of personal responsibility and individual freedom that we have to respect. I’m telling you back in 1776, nobody was having any apprehension of carrying firearms around while under the influence. I think there needs to be more focus on preparing and educating kids, as young as middle school.”

Ross continues by making the point that firearms are no longer the only way to truly hurt someone.

“There are cases all around the world where people are using knives or machetes, all sorts of vehicles and home made bombs, it seems that the ability to legally carry a firearm is the only way to combat these other measures,” Ross said.

Some students at the University of Texas are also having trouble understanding the need for campus safety officers to obtain a gun.

Although seemingly rare, a University of Cincinnati campus officer was charged for fatally shooting an unarmed black man after a traffic violation.

“I do not think that safety officers should be able to carry guns because I think it can lead to a lot more unnecessary deaths and an increase in police brutality.” Untalan said. I do think having mace or Tasers would be good to have to subdue people, but guns are overkill in my opinion.”

Protests for and against concealed carry are surfacing all across the nation. The University of Texas Students have started a campaign to boycott concealed carry.

“Students are actually carrying around dildos all over campus claiming it is their right to bear arms, and by arms they mean dildos,” Schwegman said. “They are making fun of a serious issue because that’s how crazy it is to have guns on college campuses.”

The campaign that Schwegman is referring to is known as ‘Cocks, not Glocks,’ where students are carrying dildos around campus in an effort to protest the new gun law.

“Even just surveying an average class lecture hall I would say at least 50% have the ‘Cocks not Glocks’ stickers on their laptops,” Untalan said in regards to the campaign against concealed carry.

Students for Concealed Carry, a student organization that promotes the access to guns on campus at the University of Texas, protested against the ‘Cocks not Glocks’ campaign by holding up signs that say to “Co-exist,” with two crossed  guns in the middle of the word.

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Credit: Students For Concealed Carry; University of Texas.

“Gun violence is so prevalent in our country and has even occurred on our campus, so I do not think that it is a good idea at all.” Untalan said. “ I am very much against this legislation and I do not think that weapons have a place on my campus.

U.S Army General Calls for more Military Deterrence against Russia

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Members of the Armed Forces Committee in a meeting Tuesday Morning; Photo credit: Morgan Crabtree

By, Morgan Crabtree

WASHINGTON- The United States is in competition with Russia in an effort to modernize their militaries, a top American general told the members of the Committee of Armed Forces in a meeting on Tuesday morning.

United States Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti said that The United States European Command, EUCOM, needs to employ more defense mechanisms to deter Russian aggression towards Europe.

“Vladmir Putin is trying to make the world safe for autocratic dictatorships and to undermine the values that we hold dear in this country,” Adam Smith, Congressman and Ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said at the meeting.

General Scaparrotti said that the Air Force is looking forward to adding 5th generation aircrafts and the Navy would like to add components that will enable them to combat antisubmarine warfare more effectively. 

Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, provided highlights on the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year of 2017 in November, which included that the United States would provide $350 million to increase security assistance and provide lethal weapon assistance in the Ukraine. In 2014, former President Obama provided $291 million dollars over the course of the year to the Ukraine, but rejected the notion of utilization of lethal weapons.   

“We need to consider lethal defensive weapons for the Ukraine,” Scaparrotti said. “They are fighting a very lethal, tough enemy; it’s a Russian proxy and the Russians provide some of their newest equipment there in order to test it.”

One of the lethal weapons the Russians are testing, the general said, in the Ukraine is a UAV sensor-to-shooter technique.

According to a Reuters report, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said that their country has been affected by 6,500 cyber attacks in the past two months, at the hands of the Russians.  Business Insider reported that Poroshenko urged the United States to “be great again” by being a leader in the counter tactics of these attacks against the Ukraine.

Scaparrotti said that the United States has been very effective in their training and that the Ukrainian forces have been learning quite quickly. The U.S. is also concerned with working to increase the effectiveness of the Ukrainian security system and to disengage the corruption within their government.

“What we have provided to them in terms of our training capability, as well as equipment is being well used and they’re very eager in terms of their ability to learn more,” Scaparrotti said.

“Within Europe we can do our job today,” Scaparrotti said. “We can deter the Russian force that we see, we can counter terrorism, which is a key part of our mission, we can enable our partners, but if you look at the environment today and how it is evolving, particularly the modernization I mentioned with Russia and the creativity of our terrorists we face as well, we need to ensure we build a force that is relevant to that threat so we can continue to deter.”

Scaparrotti told the committee that the military is in need of increased intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to deter the aggression properly and in order to do so, the general said that the military needs to keep close tabs on any threat, Russia in particular. This will allow the military to alter their position as needed and allow them to be a more effective force.

Scaparrotti said that the U.S. needs to focus on anti-submarine warfare, ASW, because of “the particular advances Russia is making in the undersea domain.” A closed meeting, directly following the public meeting on Tuesday, planned to discuss the details of the advancement of ASW, along with the budget.

The general also asked for enhanced missile defense, along with an increased stockpile of munitions in case deterrence fails and the U.S. is forced to respond to a crisis.

Scaparrotti said that the level of readiness of the U.S. forces are high, but increased funding for pilots within the Air Force and the Army will expand their capability and needed ability to fly more.

“Russia, as a competitor, is willing and did break international law,” Scaparrotti said.  “What you see in their activities today is often pushing wherever they can on any international norms.”

Members of the committee and the general discussed the way Russia is evading international law in several ways.  The committee touched upon Russia continuing to militarily occupy Jordan and the Ukraine allegedly without their consent. The committee also shed light on Russian activities in cyber warfare, which are considered criminal, particularly the attacks against the Ukrainian power grid.

A member of the committee addressed Latvia’s belief that the Russians were a part of an attack on their government web system. The members also discussed the dangerous threat to democratic states if Russia has the ability to have any influence in democratic elections, whether that be in Europe or the United States.

“They [Russia] want to regain great power status and the action they are taking is to ensure that,” Scaparrotti said. “ What we need to do is  demonstrate strength, that is what Russia respects. They are opportunistic. When they see weakness, they will take advantage of it when it is in their interest.”

Left-wing Says No to Gun Control?

By, Morgan Crabtree

In a country deeply divided by politics, one state has made it clear that no matter what party they side with, one right will never be tampered with – their second amendment.

Since the 1970s, Vermont has historically voted for Democratic candidates in all levels of the government, hoping for social change and environmental awareness. However, Vermonters seemingly will never venture to the liberal side of the spectrum when it comes to gun control.

“I vote yes to gay marriage. I say yes to the initiatives to support the end of global warming. I am avidly against discrimination, inequality, and I’m sure as hell against stopping our humanitarian efforts in Syria.” Karen Banks, longtime resident of Vermont said. “But I will never, and I mean never, be okay with the government impeding on my second amendment right to bear arms.”

In May of 2016, the minority group of gun control activists were defeated for the 4th consecutive year in their efforts to implement more gun laws in the state. Although well over half of the state voted in favor of Hillary Clinton, the state remains solid in their stance for lenient gun laws.

According to Business Insider, only 28.8% of Vermont residents actually own guns, but to residents of the state and the Winhall Vermont Chief of Police, Jeffrey Whitesell, the simple facade that everyone does and can own a gun will deter people from committing crimes.

“Burglarizing or conducting a home invasion in Vermont is unlikely,” Whitesell said in an interview Tuesday night. “People imagine that there is a pretty high likelihood that the homeowner is going to have a gun, so the criminal would have to think twice.”

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Chief of Police Jeffrey Whitesell; Credit:

Whitesell was born and raised in the state of Vermont and has always had the ability to freely carry a gun once he was of age. The laws in Vermont have changed little over the course of the past decade, despite recent spikes in mass shootings.

World Atlas reported that Vermont has the lowest violent crime rate per capita compared to the entire country. There are only an average of 12 murders a year in Vermont, minuscule compared to the number of murders nationwide. The crime rate for the U.S. has increased, yet the crime rate in Vermont has decreased substantially since 2012.

“If you take a look at the major cities with high crime rates and strict gun laws, it doesn’t seem like their laws are effective,” Whitesell said. “You can look at Birmingham, Alabama and Chicago who have very high gun-related crimes, but some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, and it doesn’t do a thing to deter the criminal from using the gun.”

According to Neighborhood Scout Statistics, Birmingham Alabama ranks number 11 amongst the most dangerous cities in the U.S.

Banks said the importance of owning a gun is not just a source of entertainment through her love for hunting, but it is also a way to protect herself.

“The local police department employs a limited amount of officers, but we have a lot of land.” Banks said. “We don’t have enough officers or time to expect officers to be on the scene of an emergency as quickly as we would see in a more populated area, it’s my way of knowing I’m  safe and my family is safe.”

Vermont employs about 178 police officers for every 100,000 residents. Residents in Vermont live further away from each other on average compared to the surrounding states. In other words, their limited team of officers and the far distances they have to travel set them back in their ability to reach every emergency situation at a fast pace.

Connor Hirsch, born and raised in Montpellier Vermont explained that his family does not call 911 in the case of an emergency. Hirsch said that the amount of time it would take for that call to be dispatched from one station to another would be take more time than just calling the police station from the county over from them, due to the far proximity of the local police station.

The newly elected governor, Phil Scot, has vowed not to push any legislation that would result in further gun control, instead he is primarily going to focus on enforcing the laws that the State of Vermont already has in place at this time.

“Adding any gun laws will be trying to solve a problem we don’t have,” Whitesell concluded.

Michael Tomasky’s Discussion on Bill Clinton’s Legacy

Michael Tomasky, author of the biography of Bill Clinton, was never a huge supporter of the former president. Although he has been a long time Democrat, Clinton was a politician he viewed as consequential.

“When you think of Clinton you think of one thing,” Tomasky said during his speech at Politics and Prose on Wednesday night. “And that is Monica Lewinsky.”

Tomasky said that he was not entirely enthusiastic about writing Bill Clinton, a book on the legacy of Clinton, but soon realized that the Lewinsky scandal overshadowed many great things the former president was able to accomplish during his two terms. 

“When I was asked to do this book I was hesitant,” Tomasky said. “But then I realized if he was able to make that party [Republicans] that crazy, there must be something I’m missing.”

The audience broke out into laughter and the author continued to explain all of the “hidden gems” he was able to discover throughout his research.

One of the major decisions Clinton made was to veto the abortion bill, which was drafted to outlaw intact dilation and extraction abortions. In other words mothers whose lives were at risk due to the pregnancy would not be able to abort their child late in their term.

“Public opinion was strongly against Clinton, republicans were screaming murderer and a lot of Democrats were caving.” Tomasky explained. “But he stood firm to veto.”

Many of the positions that Clinton held were not only rejected by Republicans, but also Democrats. Tomasky said that Clinton perpetually followed his moral compass, in spite of support from his own party, which allowed for progressive ideals to thrive during his presidency.

Tomasky believes that Clinton, in one way or another, is the reason the Democratic Party still exists. The Democrats had lost three elections in a row and needed to reshape the party.

“If the Democrats had nominated another Mondale, they probably would have lost again and then where would they be?” Tomasky questioned. “Clinton pretty much saved the party.”

Tomasky said that the younger generation, today, has little to no appreciation for any of the good that he accomplished. The author explained that this is mostly because they do not understand that although his progressive positions do not seem to fit the standards of today’s times, they surpassed the standard of the 1990s.

Tomasky explained the president’s involvement with helping to restore a fair leader in Haiti almost immediately after he was elected. He continued to discuss the focus Clinton had on welfare reform, immigration matters and the Israeli agreement.

Tomasky then discussed a issue that people view as common in today’s world, but was something that was unheard of in the past.

“Polarization started during Clinton’s term in the 1990s,” Tomasky said. “It was a concept that no president had ever been confronted with.

Tomasky explains that the media had shifted in the 1990s, was explicitly conservative, and left Clinton to constantly have to deal with a 24 hour news cycle, foreign to any president before his time.

“You had this 24/7 media machine with a conservative media apparatus that came together.” Tomasky recalled. “ And in a lot of ways, Clinton did not know how to handle it.”

The author explained how the news accused the Clinton administration of removing the “w” from all of the keyboards before having to vacate the White House. They were also accused of trashing the Old Executive Office Building. The claims were later discredited, but these allegations were the start of the typical sphere of fake news one can witness in modern times.

Tomasky then insinuates that if the Republican Party did not cause the government to shutdown, then the Lewinsky scandal would have never occurred.

“If there had been no rabidly partisan Gingrich effort to shutdown the government, the two of them never would have met,” Tomasky said.

He explained that a conspiracy group known as the “elves” would set up situations to attempt to “catch” Clinton is any distasteful acts. There were rumors that were circulating about Clinton committing perjury, which birthed this group of lawyers to find out any information that would prove these rumors true.

Nonetheless, despite the bad press surrounding the Lewinsky infamy, Tomasky reveals that Clinton’s approval rating never fell below 60%. The audience seemed to be surprised by this number, and he explained most people do not know this about Clinton because history and news tend to leave that out.

In the wake of the most recent presidential campaign, however, Bill Clinton’s legacy that had been somewhat neutral or positive had been tainted. Tomasky explained that this was not particularly from the right, but instead Clinton “took a hit from the left, from the sander’s impetus.”

“Bernie Sanders and the occupyish of the wing, the economic populist wing, the anti-banker wing, really excoriated him,” Tomasky said.

The record of Clinton that had been positive for the Democrats in the 1990s and even throughout the Bush years was denounced, mostly in an effort to shed a poor light on Sander’s competitor Hilary Clinton.

“His legacy may be down right now,” Tomasky said. “But I think there will come a time when it will come back up, and that time, depending on how things go in these next four years, might be sooner than we think.”