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Commentary: The Judgment of Guns in Schools

By Dawn McMullan, KERA 90.1 Commentator

Dallas, Tx –

When I was in college, I once borrowed the ID of a girl down the hall in our dorm because she was legal and I, obviously, wasn't. She was also about six inches taller than me, which her driver's license clearly stated. Still, seemed like a good idea to use her ID to get into the club and show it to the police officer who gave my friends and me a ticket for drinking beer in the parking lot.

That's 18-year-old judgment for you.

I spent many a late night or early morning driving to and from Waco to Arlington, where my boyfriend lived, instead of studying. A friend of mine got pregnant. Another dabbled in LSD. All 19- and 20-year-old judgment at its finest.

My friends and I did many other things in college that I won't write about because my parents might read this (that's 39-year-old judgment). While I look back on my college days with fondness, I don't see them as my most emotionally enlightened years.

Perhaps Gov. Rick Perry has forgotten what it's like to be of college age.

Two weeks after the shootings at Virginia Tech, Perry wondered at a press conference whether guns should be allowed on college campuses. In Texas and in 38 other states, it's illegal to carry a gun on a school campus even if you have a concealed weapons permit, just like it is at many businesses. 16 states, including Texas, specifically mention college campuses. Perry thinks we might need to change that.

"I think it's time for us to have that debate in Texas," he said. "It makes sense for Texans to be able to protect themselves from deranged individuals."

Define deranged. Would that be the 18- to 24-year-olds, who are the most likely to binge drink and have mental health problems? The 1,100 college kids who commit suicide each year or the 24,000 who try? I'm curious why Perry and others think it's a good idea to arm this bright, hopeful yet oftentimes volatile segment of the population; young adults who, age appropriately, still often believe they are invincible and should be instantly gratified.

Car accidents are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 24, accounting for 31 percent of deaths in that age group. Homicide is the second (82 percent being killed with a gun), suicide the third (guns being the method of choice for most boys).

Perry and others are, of course, reacting to the Virginia Tech shootings. If only one person in one class had been armed, they reason, 32 people might have been saved. Utah is the only state that allows guns on college campuses; South Carolina and Maine are considering it.

OK. But one has to ask considering the statistics of that age group how many more would have died along the way had they been armed? Certainly more than 32. That many people are murdered each day with guns in the United States without their being allowed on campuses.

Just as those on the gun safety side of the issue are hunkering down, awaiting the next Seung-Hui Cho, so are gun supporters. Although only in America would one have to break it down like this, it is statistically more likely college students are going to kill more of themselves, one by one, than they are to take down the next Cho. The number of people killed in mass shootings is frightening, flashy and minimal.

The discussion doesn't stop at college campuses. Gun advocates also think teachers at elementary and secondary schools have the right to be armed: "Anybody who has a concealed handgun license should be allowed to carry their guns to as many places as possible," State Rep. Joe Driver of Garland said after the Virginia Tech shootings.

Even State Sen. John Carona of Dallas wonders what kind of judgment this is. After Perry's press conference, Carona, an NRA member and long-time supporter of gun rights, said bringing up such legislation would be "opportunistic and ill-advised."

So was that ID thing I pulled as a freshman. Perhaps it's time those with college well behind them used their good judgment so our youth will live long enough to use theirs.

Dawn McMullan is a writer from Dallas.

If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.