Guns on campus is a terrible idea

Guns on campus is a terrible idea
I'm writing this shortly after a controversial piece of legislation got shot down in a Senate committee in the Capitol building in Pierre.

The bill, technically, is dead. But our state lawmakers have a penchant to smokeout or hoghouse or practice some other form of legislative voodoo, and – poof – the next thing you know, a proposal that was dead has been given new life.

There's always a possibility that HB 1263 – which rightfully withered when debated before the Senate State Affairs Committee Monday morning – could be reintroduced in some other form.

Or its sponsors could try again next year. This legislation demonstrates how easily people we expect to know better can, with little apparent thought, take a big gulp of calamitous Kool-Aid offered by a special interest group which shows a willful disregard for the well-being of a specific group of our state's population.

Had it been approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor (which seems likely; he's stated that he really doesn't see anything wrong with the bill) HB 1261 would have allowed students of the state's public institutions to be able to pack heat on campus.

In other words, they could wander across campus, sit in lecture halls, visit professors' offices, eat lunch in the commons, study in the library, etc., with a gun tucked away in their coats or book bags right along with their cell phones.

It is, by far, one of the craziest things ever to find such widespread support by one of our legislative bodies in Pierre. Thankfully, members of the Senate State Affairs Committee had their wits about them when they debated the measure Monday, and subsequentially killed it.

Nancy First, South Dakota coordinator for Second Amendment Sisters, supported the bill because law-abiding citizens are entitled to their basic right of self-defense. If criminals knew someone might be armed at their intended crime scene, it would serve as a deterrent, she said.

I don't know what is required for one to carry a concealed weapon in South Dakota. I think it's safe to assume, however, that you must be of a certain age and have a clean record.

If this bill had passed, thousands of people on the USD campus would have been eligible to tote a gun to class. First and her �sisters� forget that those who meet the requirements for carrying a concealed weapon have not been trained to use their weapons in many dangerous scenarios.

Law enforcement personnel have been trained not only in how to use a firearm but how to do so in many adverse situations. An excellent example of this was the shooting drill local law enforcement held last summer in Vermillion High School. They experienced and learned things that gave them expertise that far surpasses the skills of a typical university student armed with only a gun and a bit of bravado. What does a university student know about identifying and isolating a suspect, setting a perimeter, hostage negotiations or strategic evacuations to remove potential casualties?

When someone starts shooting on campus, everyone with a weapon becomes a suspect. Imagine the dilemma for law enforcement officials attempting to identify the criminal when several students, visitors and employees are armed.

The majority of people licensed to carry a concealed weapon have been trained to do so while they are mentally stable and in a calm training environment. When there is a situation similar to the one at Virginia Tech, most people close to the incident – including those with easy access to firearms – become impaired by fear, anger, shock, hysteria and emotional distress.

So a situation involving an isolated, psychologically impaired gunman would expand to a campus full of psychologically impaired students, professors, visitors and employees armed with an assortment of weapons.

HB 1261, if approved, would not have prevented tragedies like Virginia Tech from happening. If anything, it would have increased the chances of them happening in South Dakota.

This was a horrible piece of legislation. Let's hope we don't see something like this in Pierre ever again.

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