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Sunday, December 03, 2023

Gun law creates unsafe campus

Where you stand on the issue of Wisconsin's ""concealed carry"" law—which allows licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons in public places and businesses—likely comes down to one question: Do you feel safer with more guns around you?

Under the new law, gun owners with the right permits can walk around armed almost anywhere they please, unless a business posts signs prohibiting firearms. At this university, it means someone can walk through public areas of campus, such as sidewalks, parks and Camp Randall tailgates armed to the teeth.

So, does the idea of people walking around locked and loaded make you feel safer?

If it does, you probably think this is a great law. With more guns on campus, you figure crime will go down because criminals would have to think twice before mugging or assaulting someone. You might even think the unspeakable tragedies like those that struck Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech would be avoided here, because brave students could shoot down a would-be mass murderer.

But if having more guns around you doesn't make you feel safer—if you realize that we're not talking about trained SWAT team members and Navy SEALs carrying concealed weapons—this law robs you of something fundamental. It robs you of the safety and security you should always feel at this university. It might scare the crap out of you, because you don't know if this place that has become your home is as safe as it used to be.

More guns on campus, at least more guns around in the hands of people who aren't guaranteed to be well-trained, does not make us safer. Crime is a problem on this campus and in this city, but the solution isn't to have heavily armed citizens everywhere.

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If you want to fight crime, do it by stepping up enforcement. And not enforcement by civilian vigilantes deputized with a special license, but enforcement by people who have the training to justify their weapons.

Invest in the Madison and UW police departments. Give them the resources they need to put more officers in the streets, where they will keep us safe. Don't just throw more guns into the mix, with less-trained operators, and think it make us safe or make us feel safer.

This campus is our home, and we have a right to be safe in our home.

UW police have said that since the university posts signs prohibiting guns in campus buildings, they have the authority to arrest someone who comes into a campus building armed. Still, that's little consolation when we know the streets around our campus buildings just aren't as safe as they used to be.

We shouldn't have to worry that Library Mall or Bascom Hill will turn into the O.K. Corral. We shouldn't have to guess, as we walk around our university, if people we pass on the street are carrying firearms. We shouldn't have to face the possibility that a student could walk onto campus with a gun and mow down our classmates—and that they would be following the law until they pulled the trigger.

This new law places all of us in increased danger and steals from us of something that should be a given: The safety we feel at this great university, this temple to the free and secure exchange of ideas.

As unlikely as it is to happen given the state of Wisconsin's politics, the Legislature should repeal the law, and then Gov. Scott Walker should sign that repeal. It's the only way to take our campus back.


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