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Should guns be banned from college campuses?

Scientists tell us that the human brain doesn’t stop developing until well into our 20s. For most of us, independence comes while our minds are still silently calibrating their attention spans, their organizational skill, and their awareness of social cues. In many states, we can own weapons when we’re twelve or fourteen years old – well short of voting or drinking age, and clearly even shorter of full cognitive ability.

Our rights as citizens shouldn’t and don’t depend on our being at our cognitive peaks; for pragmatic reasons, though, we should measure the benefits of making firearms publicly available carefully against the possible costs.

Gun rights advocates often argue that when guns are widely available, we’re all safer, because we each have the capacity to secure our own safety with force. Whether that’s actually the case is hard to tell, because there are studies favoring both sides, and those who study the issue closely tend to have a stake in the outcome of the research.

As Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer noted in a 2008 case, “The upshot is a set of studies and counterstudies that, at most, could leave a judge uncertain about the proper policy conclusion.”

One thing is for certain, though – especially since the incidents at Columbine, Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, American educational institutions often feel besieged by the potential for violence, regardless of the likelihood of gun-related violent incidents. Nearly 350 colleges, community colleges and universities have signed onto The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, and even though some gun rights advocates may disagree with the Campaign’s premise, there is broad public support for measures to regulate where guns may be carried.

2011 saw the defeat of ballot measures that would have invalidated attempts by college campuses in some states to limit students’ rights to carry, and it’s a longstanding principle of law in most places that certain areas are off limits to firearms: schools, places that sell alcohol and hospitals, for example. Whether or not we feel that these laws should extend to those in the fragile stage between late adolescence and adulthood may depend on cultural factors rolex replica and proclivities that don’t have much to do with the scientific evidence.

But even if actuarial tables tell us that we’re unlikely to be killed by firearms on college campuses, we shouldn’t downplay colleges’ symbolic value as institutions where we can disagree without any threat of violence.

 
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When it comes to gun rights, we often fall back on principle rather than pragmatics – leaving institutions like colleges at risk of angering their constituencies no matter what decision they make.
 
 
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