The college classroom is meant to be a special space where all manner of ideas are aired, considered, and debated, and differences negotiated—through speech and argument—with no fear of violent recrimination, no fear of inciting angry students to draw their guns.Teaching the controversies is good. But standing up for controversies does not mean practicing liberating tolerance.
In my philosophy and politics classes, for example, I—like peers in my field—routinely broach contentious issues: topics such as structural racism, abortion, and gun rights (the most contentious of them all). Few young adults have put significant thought into these kinds of issues; they must experiment with them to understand them properly and deeply, and to develop mature and critical views. It’s important to ensure that students feel free to explore their thoughts and express them—frankly—so they can experiment and develop. They must feel free to push their intellectual limits, and entertain lines of argument that are controversial, probably offensive to some.
Expansions of civil rights are almost always deeply unpopular at first; this was the case in the fight for women’s rights, suffrage for African Americans, and marriage equality for gays and lesbians. Universities play a key role in early discussions about expanding these rights: Radical ideas must be given a hearing, and require a space to be vetted and honed before emerging into the culture at large, and ultimately the political stage.How can you have a productive or illuminating conversation, if you're implicitly sneering at normal Americans or marinating in the metrofexual smug? Is it really the fear that someone might be packing (and disregarding all of the range safety training that comes prior to the permit) that is setting students off?
I fear that campus carry will make students and faculty less inclined to engage in the critical intellectual work that must take place in the classroom, the courageous inquiry and experimentation American democracy requires. As Gonzalez suggests, classes devoted to highly controversial topics could be the most vulnerable in this respect. How many students are going to risk uncomfortable and potentially intrusive lines of inquiry about gender identity, for example, in conservative Texas—when some of their conservative peers may well be armed? Why even go there, if you are an instructor, and can’t hope to have a productive or illuminating conversation?
Some conclusions are beyond irony.
It’s impossible to measure the cost of campus carry. But I wager that the cost will be evidenced in the mounting silence on college campuses, and the trepidation, timidity, and lack of creativity among new generations of voters. American democracy will be the poorer for it.I'll give Gabriella Hoffman the last word.
Those who responsibly carry firearms on campus undergo strenuous training and education in preparation to carry. Learning how to handle firearms is an art—one that requires constant learning and practice throughout life. To insinuate the claim that gun owners are undisciplined or unhinged demonstrates this professor’s obvious hatred of individuals who hold differing worldviews.Her conclusion is questionable Utopian Wonkery. And yet, the real threat to free inquiry on campus is the intellectual monoculture. The over-the-top students who attend Milo Yannapoulis's act, or yell "Trump" at Approved Protesters are the symptom, not the cause.
Free speech is under attack from authoritarian professors and administrators eager to stifle speech they despise. Permitting firearms on campus will spark conversations and challenge collegiate cupcakes to open their hearts and minds to differing viewpoints—particularly to views in favor of the Second Amendment.