Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pistol-Packin' Professoriate

"The Pink Mafia," photo by Flickr user Dunechaser, used under a Creative Commons license. Gotta love how the Lego people grin dementedly while wielding their guns.

This came via the faculty email list a couple of weeks ago, thanks to an moment of impressively poor judgment on the part of the colleague who forwarded it. You've surely heard of penis spam; well, this was pistol spam. (And yes, sometimes a pistol is just a pistol.)
I spoke to you on the phone about a week ago about hosting a seminar for faculty members to teach them the basics of firearm safety and to have them actually handle a firearm at a private range just out side of Athens. I am an NRA certified pistol instructor and personal protection in the home instructor. If you need to see proof of my credentials I can bring them by you office. I will attach a flier that you can send around to other faculty and let them know what is happening. The reason for the class is basic firearm safety and knowledge. No prior experience will be necessary for anyone to take part in the class and I will not charge anything for the class except the price of the ammunition they will be shooting. For insurance reasons I have to have them shoot factory ammunition as apposed to reloaded ammunition that is assembled at home.
At the time, I just thought this was snark-worthy. I tried to picture me and my equally nice-and-nerdy colleagues out on the shooting range. The scene was an unholy mix of camouflage and tweed. I tried to imagine myself as Agent Scully in the X-Files, mixing braininess and a killer aim. It was no good. My imagination was failing me.

But here's where the humor ends. Now, I'm wondering if this email was not just a poor student trying to recruit customers with a free sample, but instead the opening salvo in an arms race. And I don't mean that metaphorically. At Alternet, Lilian Segura describes how gun-rights groups are lobbying for students to bear arms:
A flurry of news stories earlier this year reported a pioneering solution proposed to the rash of recent campus shootings: instead of redoubling efforts to enforce the whole "gun-free school zone" thing -- a quaint little notion from, like the 1980s -- why not change the rules to let students bring more guns onto college campuses?

A few answers leapt to mind -- binge drinking, drug use, close living quarters in a high-pressure environment -- but for awhile, it seemed like the idea was catching on. In the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007, in which 32 people were killed, several states began considering legislation to expand the right to carry a concealed weapon onto college campuses.
Fortunately, as Segura reports, these concealed-carry laws have failed in fifteen states, including some pretty gun-friendly ones: Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington. Utah is alone in having such a law. Ohio is considering one, and while my adopted state does plenty of goofy things, I can't imagine it'll allow guns on campus.

But I also don't suppose that'll be the end of the story. Segura says that a new group called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus claims 35,000 members. I'm wondering, now, if our local student offering free shooting lessons was one of them.

I'm no absolutist on guns. I come from a family of hunters and while I personally don't hanker to shoot critters, I won't tell others they should't. (It sure beats factory farming.) I think most people are responsible gun owners, although there was that time my dad shot a hole in the floor of his office ...

But on campus? As a women's studies professor, I didn't immediately connect the student concealed-carry movement with the Virginia Tech massacre (though that's probably most people's main association). My first thought was: We don't need another Montreal Massacre. In that attack at Montreal's École Polytechnique, fourteen people were killed and another fourteen injured in the name of "fighting feminism." Just last week was its nineteenth anniversary. If there were ever a reprise, a women's studies classroom would be an awfully convenient target.

Update December 10, 10:00 p.m.: In comments, Hesperia emphasizes that fourteen women - engineering students - were shot and killed. For the sake of readers who don't remember that event, I should have made that clear. They were targeted specifically because of the shooter's hatred of women in general and feminists in particular. I'm not at all sure that there's any basis for assuming all women engineers are also feminists, but hey, if you're a misogynist embarking on a hate crime, logic is probably not your strong suit. Similarly, most students in a women's studies class typically don't identify as feminists, but symbolically that might not matter to a potential attacker.


hesperia said...

Fourteen women were killed, sungold. Fourteen women engineering students.

Sungold said...

Yes, I remember it well, but I should've connected the dots for those who don't - or are too young to have any recollection. Thanks. I've added an update to emphasize and clarify this point.