Letters from the Editor: Spectre of the gun

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Photo credit: Ellamarie Quimby


Although the legislature remains ineffectual with regards to the budget, it’s at least setting aside some more frivolous pursuits; an effort to allow concealed carry of firearms on campus has stalled out, apparently for the foreseeable future. I’m not going to weigh in on whether or not this is a good idea because, strictly speaking, I’m honestly not sure.

Generally speaking, Alaskans have a sensible, practical approach to firearms that puts us at odds with much of the lower 48. Moving to a city resulted in no small amount of culture shock; in one illustrative moment, a girlfriend I had brought home to visit sat in wide-eyed terror as I carefully, but casually, handled a rifle that my dad had recently bought. At the same time, much of Alaskan gun culture lacks the bombastic machismo that it seems to have Outside. Here, owning a rifle or a shotgun is a matter of practicality, rather than of imagined threat or Second Amendment principle.

The argument for concealed carry on campus is one closer to non-Alaskan gun culture, in my estimation. It views the world with an inherent level of suspicion and fear: a constant concern that, no matter the location or timing, someone might pull a gun and start shooting. Though this is an uncomfortably regular occurrence in the U.S., it’s not a particularly common one up here–we haven’t had a mass shooting in Alaska since 1984. The “good guy with a gun” argument in favor of concealed carry doesn’t hold nearly so much water in a place where bad guys with guns are in short supply.

There is something that lends the argument a little weight, though. While I’m not convinced that allowing guns on campus is the best move, I’m also not convinced that campus security would be sufficient were a “bad guy with a gun” to show up. The UAF Police Department is a small force even in the best of times, better suited to handling traffic enforcement and the occasional drunk and disorderly person than an active shooter. Today, the fiscal crisis has seen their budget slashed to the bone, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence where there was little to begin with.

More than anything, we count on a level of sensibility in expecting students and faculty to leave their firearms at home (or locked in their cars). While gun culture tends to be similarly sensible, let’s hope that we never face a situation in which a “good guy with a gun” would have been a boon.

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