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Guns on Campus Bill: Professor shows Civil Disobedience

Earlier this year Arizona experienced a horrible tragedy in Tucson when Jared Laughner shot and killed numerous people at a public meeting coordinated by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Since then the debate for allowing guns on campus has heated up significantly with proponents citing Utah as a poster child for allowing guns on campus. Recently, Lawrence M. Krauss, a Professor at Arizona State University came up with his own method for handling this issue by simply not allowing students with weapons to attend his classes. David M Cantor, a defense attorney experienced in Arizona gun laws, discusses this technique in todays video.

What do you think?

Read more at the Arizona Republic:

I moved to Arizona three years ago to direct the Origins Project at what is becoming one of the most dynamic institutions of higher education in the country, Arizona State University.

Our successes are now at risk as some members of the state Legislature seem bent on leading Arizona backward in matters of both higher education and business investment, while risking the safety of the university community.

Less than two months after the tragic shooting near Tucson, the Legislature is debating Senate Bill 1467, which will forbid the governing board of an educational institution from adopting or enforcing a policy that prohibits the possession of concealed weapons by students or faculty, as long as they have a permit.

All this, despite the fact that the chief law-enforcement officers of the three state universities in Arizona have come out strongly against the law.

They all voice the same concern: Law-enforcement officials entering any area of possible conflict in which numerous individuals are carrying guns will not be able to determine who the perpetrator is.

In addition, they are aware that all but highly trained weapons experts tend to miss their targets, so that use of weapons on campus is likely to result in injury or fatalities to innocent bystanders.

This pending legislation is already having a chilling effect. The Origins Project has brought the world’s preeminent scholars to campus over the past three years. However, we are now getting e-mails from several prominent academics who are concerned about lecturing in locations in which some students may carry weapons.

If SB 1467 is signed into law, despite overwhelming faculty, parent and student objections, we who work at the university will have difficult choices to make about our future.

I have come up with a plan, however, which I hope obviates at least some of the most odious impacts of this legislation.

First, throughout the university, we now try to maintain an intellectual atmosphere that promotes open inquiry and questioning. For this reason, I now tell students they should not bring calculators or skateboards to my classroom.

No matter what the form of any final legislation is, I will have the same policy for weapons in my classroom. Outside classrooms, I will adopt a policy of refusing to interact with or host events with students who have indicated they intend to carry weapons on campus.

I view this as an issue of academic freedom, and I believe that achieving the proper atmosphere of intellectual inquiry is an essential part of such freedom.

Nevertheless, there may be some legal challenge to my actions. Should it be successful, I have another plan, and I am recommending both proposals to others.

I plan to register a disability with the university: an uncontrollable fear of guns in public places.

This didn’t used to be a disability that affected me, but I will make it clear that I cannot function properly in my role as a teacher and researcher in the presence of firearms on campus. I will request that students be informed that because of this, only those not carrying weapons can register for my classes.

There is an irony here. Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol can ban the presence of firearms. However, although the Legislature trusts students with handguns, they do not feel they can drink responsibly and legally, so the campus is alcohol-free.

If this were not the case, the Arizona Board of Regents would seem within its rights to refuse to allow guns on campus.

Whether or not my civil disobedience will work, it is important, as we consider how to ensure our safety and our students’ safety on campuses, that we also consider how we can protect ourselves against a potentially more invasive threat: the reckless shortsightedness of some of our own elected officials.

Lawrence M. Krauss is foundation professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. His newest book, “Quantum Man: Richard Feynman’s Life in Science” is being released this month.

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