Hadiya Pendleton was shot and killed in Chicago more than two years ago. June 2 would have been her 18th birthday.
Last Tuesday, people all over the country honored Hadiya — and the more than 30,000 Americans killed with guns every year — by #WearingOrange as part of the first annual National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
The fact that the United States has a gun violence problem isn’t up for debate. The question is what we ought to do about it.
This is an issue on which people of good faith can and do disagree. But the gun lobby’s “guns everywhere” argument — one that actor Vince Vaughn seems to subscribe to in his new British GQ interview — isn’t the answer.
When the National Rifle Association pushes for arming teachers, or forcing schools and colleges to allow guns in their buildings and on their campuses, you have to ask whose interests they really have in mind — and what problem they think they’re solving.
We know that college campuses, historically, are incredibly safe places, with homicide rates far below the national average. Administrators and campus police know how to keep schools safe better than NRA headquarters does, and polling reveals campus communities agree. In fact, more than 90% of college presidents and faculty oppose guns on campus, and nearly 90% of police chiefs and about 80% of students don’t want guns on campus, either.
State lawmakers across the country are rejecting the “guns everywhere” argument as well.
In this year alone, legislators have defeated gun lobby-backed “campus-carry” bills in 14 states so far. They have also shot down “K-12 carry” bills in 15 states. Tennessee, Montana and Wyoming — along with other states with long traditions of hunting and responsible gun ownership — all have drawn the line when it comes to allowing concealed guns at K-12 schools and forcing colleges to allow guns on campus.
The Texas Legislature did pass a “campus-carry” bill May 31, but not the one that NRA lobbyists wanted. That’s the silver lining — the bill includes an important opt-out provision. Private universities won’t have to allow guns on campus, and public ones will have the authority to decide where on campus guns are allowed.
We’ve already seen that when a law gives colleges the choice — roughly half of U.S. states allow schools to set their own policies — they almost uniformly use their authority to restrict the presence of guns.
That’s not surprising. After all, colleges have a responsibility to protect their students, as well as an interest in protecting their reputations. If any Texas colleges do go ahead and allow guns in their classrooms, cafeterias and dorms, it’ll be interesting to see how those schools fare in recruiting and retaining top faculty — and whether students and parents will decide to spend their tuition money elsewhere.
Balancing individual rights and public safety is what governing is all about. No right is unlimited. That we don’t have the right to yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater is the classic example.
Of course, the NRA’s “guns everywhere” ideology doesn’t respect that traditional balance. It even opposes the most effective policies for preventing gun violence, such as background checks for all gun sales and reasonable limits on where people can carry guns. The NRA’s leadership looked favorably upon these policies as recently as 1999, but has since renounced them, even though it puts them at odds with the vast majority of the American public.
That’s why the #WearingOrange campaign trended nationally last week. Americans want common-sense solutions that reduce gun violence.
It would serve more lawmakers well to get the message, keep guns out of schools and colleges, and reject the tired ideas we continue to hear from the gun lobby.