In enlightened modern America, the risk of dying of a shark attack is most frequently referenced in comparison to one’s odds of winning the Powerball lottery, but in the summer of 1975, America’s coastal tourism business took a major hit as a result of the June release of the world’s first summer blockbuster—Jaws.
The risk of dying from a shark attack was just as low then as it is today—in fact, there were no fatal shark attacks in U.S. waters that year—but a cinema-inspired nationwide bout of galeophobia (fear of sharks) had real, negative consequences on the nation afflicted.
In a speech delivered February 4 at the 2016 National Prayer Breakfast, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “The consequences of [fear] can be worse than any outward threat.”
That statement is reflected throughout America’s checkered past, from fear of witchcraft leading to twenty executions in Salem, Mass., to fear of vaccines leading to a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases. Now, Texas is seeing fear of campus carry take a real, measurable toll on the state’s institutions of higher education. However, just as witches were not to blame for the Salem witch trials, and just as vaccines are not to blame for the negative results of the anti-vaccine movement, campus carry is not to blame for the current atmosphere of fear on Texas college campuses.
The professors threatening to resign their positions or remove controversial material from their curricula have no more basis for their actions than did the people who canceled summer vacation plans 41 years ago. All available evidence suggests that licensed concealed carry will not make Texas college campuses any less safe.
The report of UT-Austin’s campus carry policy working group notes, “Our examination of states that already have campus carry revealed little evidence of campus violence that can be directly linked to campus carry, and none that involves an intentional shooting…We found that the evidence does not support the claim that a causal link exists between campus carry and an increased rate of sexual assault. We found no evidence that campus carry has caused an increase in suicide rates on campuses in other states.” The report goes on to state, “We reached out to 17 research universities in the seven campus-carry states…Most respondents reported that campus carry had not had much direct impact on student life or academic affairs.”
Those findings are consistent with the preponderance of peer-reviewed studies on licensed concealed carry—including a 2015 study from Texas A&M University—which have found that concealed carry cannot be shown to lead to an increase in violent crime. Statistically, a Texan is significantly more likely to be struck by lightning than to be murdered or negligently killed by a concealed handgun license (CHL)/license to carry (LTC) holder. Texas CHL/LTC holders are convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon at 1/7 the rate of unlicensed Texans (NOTE: that statistic includes all Texas children in the number of unlicensed Texans; the contrast is even greater when only adults are counted). Therefore, what basis do these professional academics—men and women trained to rely on empirical data when drawing conclusions—have for taking actions as drastic as resigning their positions or dumbing down course materials?
When a member of a hate group bombs a house of worship, society doesn’t blame the worshipers for scaring the attacker to the point of violence; we blame the fear mongers and hate speakers who taught the attacker to fear and hate what he doesn’t understand. Neither Texas’s new campus carry law, the legislators who passed it, nor the activists who pushed it are responsible for the actions of professors overwhelmed by unjustified fear. Intellectually, these professors are no different than someone whose actions are defined by an irrational fear of sharks, witchcraft, or vaccines.
We can pity them for their inability to function rationally, but we must not acquiesce to their phobic delusions.
About Students for Concealed Carry:
Students for Concealed Carry (SCC) is a national, non-partisan, grassroots organization comprising college students, faculty, staff, and concerned citizens who believe that holders of state-issued concealed handgun licenses should be allowed the same measure of personal protection on college campuses that current laws afford them virtually everywhere else. SCC is not affiliated with the NRA or any other organization. For more information on the debate over campus carry in Texas, visit WhyCampusCarry.com.