Trey Garrison, a writer I admire and a contributing editor at D, has an op-ed piece in The Dallas Morning News today suggesting that Tuesday's suicide at the University of Texas at Austin makes the case for allowing all students in Austin to pack heat when they go to class. Perhaps from personal delicacy, Garrison stops just short of closing the circle on his own argument. But it's clear he thinks if the other kids had been carrying guns that day they could have shot the dead kid before he shot himself so that he couldn't shoot them.
The shooter had been shooting up the place before he shot himself. Garrison feels the situation called for some healthy crossfire. He suggests it is the absence of crossfire, in fact, that makes schools attractive to deranged shooters.
"Weird, too, is the fact that guns are outlawed on almost all college and school campuses," he says "yet bad guys keep showing up there, loaded for bear."
Garrison even proposes that colleges and universities are setting their students up to be victims by refusing to allow them to pack: "So in the meantime, why give these Charles Whitman wannabes a corralled group of targets that they know won't shoot back?" he demands.
I suspect that Garrison has never been the parent of a UT Austin student, or he would less likely to propose a hard dichotomy between, on the one hand, "bad guys" and "Charles Whitman wannabes" and, on the other hand, the rest of the student body in Austin.
I am not able to divulge the identity of my sources, both because of guarantees of confidentiality that I have extended and also because I need to check first to see if the statute of limitations has lapsed. But I am aware that normal, every-day UT students - fine young people believed by their parents to be God's gift to humankind - already do very insane things with guns, even though guns are banned by the university.
I am aware, for example, of an instance some years back (I cannot say how many years exactly because I do not want to give too many clues) in which two University of Texas fraternities engaged in a contest of wills where members stood on the rooftops of both houses and tried to see if their shotguns could reach each other. I am aware that these fraternity houses were just far enough apart so that the worst anyone suffered, according to one happy participant, was "a deal every once in a while where you got just peppered a little bit but it didn't break the skin."
Drink was involved.
I am aware of another incident in which a student, awakened suddenly by another student entering his room during a really vivid dream, whipped out his pistol and started putting holes in the wall. No one was injured, unless it was someone at a distance who never knew what hit him or her.
Drink was involved.
I could recite other incidents, but I am not sure it is in my interest to do so.
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Drink was involved.
I am not saying that my meager anecdotal knowledge refutes Garrison's argument, which he bases on the Bill of Rights. But I would urge the following:
If students are to be allowed to carry guns at UT, there should be some way to make sure the new rule does not apply to the drunk students. Drunk or otherwise high. Or dead asleep after having been drunk or otherwise high. Or crazy. Or wildly immature. Or lacking in the sound judgment of adulthood.
Maybe the best way to keep track would be to take all the other students -- the ones who are not drunk, crazy or stupid 00 and have them wear armbands or hats of some kind identifying them as students allowed to take part in crossfires. All six of them.