This is particularly striking in the aftermath of the events in Los Angeles yesterday, where by all accounts an engineering professor at UCLA was murdered, apparently by a former student who then shot himself.
Some of you may know that I am an academic. My wife was unnerved, and asked, when I have office hours, can I see who is there? I explained that the door is open for drop in office hours. If a student makes an appointment, they may have to knock. I'm not going to treat my students like a threat, even though it crosses my mind occasionally that a student angry about a grade, or about an honor infraction, could mean harm. A bad grade or honor infraction can impact whether someone gets into graduate or professional school, and thus have lasting effects.
I've only once been really nervous, years ago in a previous job, when an student seemed agitated when he wanted an appointment. I stationed a very large graduate student at a desk just outside my office Just In Case. It was unnecessary. The agitated student was fine; he just needed someone to give him some time and listen with sympathy to his concerns. (Sometimes teaching is really more like therapy.) If someone means to do ill, of course, the office door is no barrier.
The Bishops ask for very little, mainly increased background checks. Most Americans (on the order of 85%) support the idea that there should be background checks for guns. After all, guns are lethal weapons the purpose of which is to kill.
As one pro-gun legislator put it,
I am hard pressed to believe that the values of safe use and personal accountability that underscore responsible gun ownership are incompatible with our expectations surrounding access to firearms. This isn’t about gun control. It’s about promoting shared values that defend our right to be safe from the often tragic and irrevocable outcomes that spring from the use of firearms by people who, by any measure of common sense, should never had been provided access to firearms in the first place.It also seems unfathomable to me that we have a huge rate of small children getting their hands on guns and shooting themselves or others.
By the end of 2015, about 265 children under 18 picked up a firearm and shot someone by accident, and 83 of those shootings were fatal, according to research compiled by the gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety. Some 41 of those deaths involved the shooters themselves, and most of the shootings involved toddlers or teens who were playing recklessly with the guns. (Source)This is treated like some sort of acceptable collateral damage by gun advocates. Horrifyingly, the NRA this week advocated keeping loaded guns in children's rooms, because of some paranoia about home invasion. But,
...the threat of a violent home invader is far less likely than Pincus claims. Not only is the national rate of household burglary decreasing steadily, but so is the rate of violent crime during a home invasion. Less than one percent of homicides in the U.S. occur during a home invasion, according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics report from 2010, the most recent year the issue was studied. The roughly 100 homicides per year that occur during household burglaries is far dwarfed by the number of shootings by kids who accidentally get their hands on firearms (not to mention the staggering number of unintentional shootings committed by adults every year).So, this obsession with guns for protection far exceeds the reality of the danger. You are much more likely to be shot by your child than by a robber.
I know gun enthusiasts and while it's not my thing, I don't want to take their guns away. But sometimes they seem a little unhinged on the subject, advocating a free-for-all that is almost a fetish. And they seem far too willing to accept our unreasonable level of gun violence as an acceptable price of their freedom. Please, I'm open to your suggestions, gun enthusiasts. What do you suggest?
I don't want someone to be shot by a toddler who gains access to a gun.
And I don't want some unhinged student able to walk into a gun store to buy a weapon to shoot me because I gave him a C.