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Handguns on campus would provoke violence

Staff Reporter

Published: Monday, January 28, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 00:01

Richard McKinney | The Houstonian

Richard McKinney | The Houstonian

With security questions looming in light of recent events on schools across the state and country, it has become increasingly salient to look towards the idea of handguns on campus. I, personally, have never shot or held a gun in my life – at least, not to my recollection, but memory acquisition is an entirely different topic. To be entirely honest, I do not believe that allowing guns on campus is a good option for any school much less one in Southern Texas.

Currently, Texas is one of only 21 states that ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Now, I do not think that this express ban deters every single person from carrying a concealed handgun, but this really isn’t the issue.

Regardless if it is being used for attack or defense, use of a gun is still a violent act (I am not going to attempt to say that guns kill people – that’s ridiculous). Estimates from the Center for Disease Control show that roughly 31,000 Americans each year are killed by guns.

A research study led by SHSU College of Criminal Justice professor Jeffrey Bouffard reports that more students are uncomfortable with the thought of concealed handguns on campus than that are; the average student reporting comfort level at 39 on a scale of 0-100 (0 being not comfortable at all, 100 being very comfortable). The same research yielded similar results on a campus in Washington State.

The problem with allowing concealed handguns to be carried on campus is more than defense. It’s more than charged language geared toward raising your American ideals of freedom and rights infringement. This issue gets to the heart of what guns are used for – violence.

Social psychology attempts to get at the heart of this issue with what is known as the “weapons effect.” The weapons effect, as coined by psychologists Leonard Berkowitz and Anthony LePage, is a phenomenon in which people become more aggressive when merely in the presence of a gun or weapon. In the original study, when aggressive stimuli such as a shotgun and revolver were present in the room, it was more likely that the participants would engage in more aggressive behaviors than non-aggressive stimuli such as a badminton racquets and shuttlecocks (who coined THAT word).

This also translates to the real world in traffic aggression for people who carry guns in their cars as well as for people who simply see a gun on another’s car! According to psychologist Brad Bushman, only being exposed to the word “gun” for 17/100 of a second makes people more aggressive. Furthermore, 65 studies have confirmed this phenomenon in angry and non-angry individuals.

This is more than a simple rights infringement. It’s more than freedom, it’s more than defense. This is about protection on a larger basis. If seeing the word “gun” increases aggression in people just think of having 20,000 students walking around campus with their pockets burning. With frustration from homework and classes already high, we don’t need another instigator towards aggression or violence on college campuses – plain and simple.

Take the recent events at Lone Star – as tragic as they were – it is clearly visible that something more could easily happen. Arguments turn violent too easily to begin with – why make them more violent?

As Leonard Berkowitz said, “Guns not only permit violence, they can stimulate it as well. The finger pulls the trigger, but the trigger may also be pulling the finger.” 

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Wed Feb 6 2013 13:08
Also, forgive the typos that I have seem to smothered in that comment. It's been a long day. I'm not feeling well. And I'm incredibly tired.

My apologies.

Wed Feb 6 2013 13:03

My figure and article wasn't about taking away guns from defense. It wasn't even about self-defense versus anything else. My article was about guns being an instrument for violence. I don't care if you shoot someone in self-defense, it's still a violent act. That's why I don't need to mention how many gun incidences are from self-defense as that is not what this article is about.

I never say that gun laws control gun related violence, I know those facts. This article is about the weapons effect.

The weapons effect if my reasoning for not having guns on campus and even a rudimentary attempt to research this issue can show you how serious it is. Aggressive stimuli increase aggression. Plain and simple. That was my argument. Nothing more - nothing less.

Wed Jan 30 2013 11:36
Nope, never was in the Journalism Department, but I do try to read what is written, both the good and the bad. If pointing out the truth, and exposing fallacies and wrong headed thinking constitutes bitterness, then I'm guilty. And I do at least have the guts to put my name on my comments.
Wed Jan 30 2013 10:47
Ross, are you a rejected writer of the Houstonian? I've noticed you bitterly comment on a lot of articles here. However, I fully agree with your comment on this one.
Tue Jan 29 2013 12:47
I see that the SHSU Journalism Department is teaching the use of highly selective research and reporting. The writer cites how many gun related deaths occur each year, but curiously (or not) totally ignores how many times each year law abiding citizens use guns in self defense. Also, the concept that guns promote violence is dispelled by even a rudimentary attempt to research the issue. States with the highest concentration of concealed handgun licensees also have the lowest rates of handgun murders. And the highest murder rate in the country? Chicago, which just happens to have the most stringent gun laws in the nation.
And what about the notion that students are "uncomfortable" knowing that others may be carrying a handgun? Should your lack of comfort impose upon me a lack of self defense? My life is more valuable than your comfort, and my ability to defend myself should not be dependent upon your comfort.

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