Lariat Letters: Student makes case to stand up for rights

Fortunately, we live in a country that affords us the rights to have debate and to elect leaders to create laws for us as a nation. The 2nd amendment right is a contentious issue for many and continues to be divisive at a national level. Concealed Carry on college campuses has gained traction in many states. In Texas we currently see Bill 182 that will allow licensed concealed carry permit holders to carry their personal weapons on college campuses.

Local media outlets, including the Baylor Lariat, have reported that Baylor faculty members Dr. Blake Burleson and Dr. Robin Wallace recently drafted a letter condemning Texas Senate Bill 182 and circulated it among the faculty. The letter strongly asserts that the freedom of licensed citizens to carry concealed weapons is disruptive to a learning environment. The authors and signatures of the letter contend that the possible presence of a firearm on campus would “introduce an element into this environment that causes anxiety, tension, concern, and fear” and “impede the free flow of ideas and exchanges which are essential in the academic enterprise.” I found these assertions to be quaint and lofty. First, disasters such as those at Virginia Tech and in Colorado have demonstrated that criminals willingly defy the laws and the rights of others and thus, illegally possessed weapons which are likely already present in almost any context—even in educational environments. Secondly, under SB 182 and current regulations, no one should be aware of legally carried firearms by Concealed Handgun License (CHL) permit holders. According to the law, no one should ever know who is lawfully armed until the need arises. Under Texas Penal Code 46.035, it is an offense for a CHL permit holder to intentionally fail to conceal a handgun (Class A Misdemeanor). Thus, it would be illegal for anyone to expose a weapon on or off campus except in what is perceived to be a threatening situation. Thirdly, the statements approach fear-mongering. As a senior here, I have had debates with individuals in class and never have I thought of using force, let alone deadly force, in those encounters. This is an academic institution not someone’s ‘Thunder Dome’ in which one lambasts others or threatens violence in the name of education. Using the authors’ logic, one must conclude that CHL holders are constantly shooting each other over car accidents or other stressors. The fact is that they are not, and as a whole, CHL holders are by far a most responsible demographic – period. For supporting statistics one can see Texas DPS Conviction Rates for Concealed Handgun License Holders.

The letter written for circulation states paternalistically and patronizingly that, “our 17 to 25-year-olds are in transition from youth to young adulthood; they are at various stages of intellectual, emotional, and moral maturity. Loaded handguns carried by youth can be dangerous anywhere.” This assertion is insulting. There are 18-year old men and women carrying fully automatic weapons in war zones for this country, yet, per Burleson’s and Wallace’s statements, these men and women too must be insufficiently morally shaped and mature enough to handle those weapon systems. Also, it seems odd that these same people lacking in “intellectual … and moral maturity” are entrusted with participation in the election process. It would seem, that even an education at Baylor University (which advertises itself as a place for ‘Discovering Truth’) is not effective in shaping responsible and intelligent citizens until they have reached their mid-twenties. For the record, one must be 21 years or older, (18 years or older if in active military service), both to buy a handgun and to receive a CHL. The gross ignorance of the laws and systems to possess and carry a weapon by the authors (and one would hope not their intentional misrepresentation of the laws) is sad given that their statements are offered as weighty evidence for why our right to “keep and bear Arms” must be infringed. I have learned in college that in order to make a decision, one should be informed of all facts and legalities of the situation. It would appear that the authors have not followed this advice.

The concern of the authors and signatories regarding students having weapons in administrative offices, facilities and courts (a practice currently illegal unless one is given express written permission) is not unfounded, no matter how illogical. If a student was angry and loosing benefits, scholarships, or pending dismissal and wanted to harm others the mere fact that it is a gun free zone would do nothing to deter the attacker. Gun-free zones are ‘victim zones’ and these have done nothing to stop bloodshed in our schools. Did gun-free zones stop the crime at Virginia Tech? Columbine? Sandy Hook? No, they did not, and the regulation forced law-abiding individuals to be defenseless. The authors’ very concern is one that prompts support of SB 182—that is, the right to legally possess a concealed weapon for the preservation of your right to life and the pursuit of happiness.

We are, I believe, at a point in this country when we must stand for our rights and not let them be negated by a government elected by us but unwilling to trust us with any other decision or let them be amputated (and then likely deleted) under the specter of ‘safety.’ Make no mistake, gun control is not about guns, it is about control. Students, I encourage you to become involved in politics as we as citizens, citizen-soldiers, or as supposed ‘youths’ will have our liberties extended or restricted by the forthcoming laws. Know that more than a hundred of those who are charged with educating and serving you feel that those of you who are eligible by law to obtain a CHL are unfit to exercise your right to carry a concealed weapon.

It is likely that these vocal individuals will also pursue the expansion of ‘gun-free zones’ which translates into greater numbers of ‘victim zones.’ It is no wonder that there have been events like the list of armed robberies and assaults on and around the campus in recent years. Only citizens feel compelled to obey laws; criminals do not care for them and are only concerned with their few moments of power over their victims. We have a choice: we can passively accept to be victims or we can actively resist tyrants who threaten “certain unalienable Rights” which were not limited to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” but also were deemed to include the rights to “keep and bear Arms,” “to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” to “trial by jury,” etc.

Tyrants come in all forms, and appear in dark alleys and in well-lit rooms. They use power assumed over timid victims. According to the laws of the land and the laws of nature we have the right and responsibility to use available means and force to defend ourselves. How does one explain making self-defense illegal? Perhaps “those of us at Baylor University” would suggest that “our students, staff, and faculty at Baylor University” can defend themselves in such ways prescribed at the University Of Colorado at Colorado Springs which advised female students to take a variety of actions from vomiting, urinating, or stating that they are on their menstrual cycle when they encountered an assailant with hostile intent. We deserve the liberty as ‘free’ people not to be defenseless should the wolves ever approach. For my part, I refuse to be a victim. I refuse to lie down while others are threatened, maimed, or killed. In that possible moment of crisis, I want to be able to use the most efficient means to secure my safety and that of others—I want to be able to legally to use a firearm. I do not want to die urinating on myself or die cowering as a defenseless animal.

I am a human being, capable of free thought and rational deliberation; I also feel emotion, love and pain. As such, I deserve the lawful ability to defend the most precious right of all, the right to life.

I am an individual and I choose to be in charge of my own actions. According to the law, I am responsible for my own actions. I am a CHL holder. I am a student at Baylor University. I am just like you.

Joshua Pagonis is a senior at Baylor University with a major of Political Science.