by David Safier

This afternoon, I attended a forum at UA about the legal aspects of guns on campus.

UA Police Chief Anthony Daykin explained the way guns on campus are handled now, and how they would be dealt with if Karen Johnson’s Guns in the Schools bill passed.

If Daykin sees anyone with a weapon at UA today, he confiscates the weapon and expels him/her from campus. Weapons are strictly forbidden. If someone calls to report a weapon on campus, the police respond to the possible threat in force. They locate the suspect and hope that either there is no weapon or that the person means no harm, but the police have to be prepared for the worst.

If Johnson’s bill is passed and signed by the Governor (I’m pretty sure the guns-in-bars law passed the legislator but was vetoed by Napolitano), people with concealed weapons permits could carry guns on campus. (You have to be 21 to get a permit, by the way, so that would leave out lots of undergrads.) And they can wear the gun in plain sight. They don’t have to hide it.

If someone calls the police, worried the person with the gun is dangerous, the police can get the gun and/or the person off campus (I don’t think they can confiscate it unless there is a genuine threat). But if no one calls, that gun on your hip is just fine so long as you have a permit.

So, if Dan, for instance, is walking along with a holstered gun on campus, are people going to get on their cells and call the police, or are they just going to say, “Looks like Dan is packing heat today”? I’m guessing Dan will continue his stroll without anyone reporting him. I just hope Dan and the hundred other students and profs wearing guns that day don’t have violent streaks and impulsive control disorders.

Would you want to be the professor explaining to Dan after class why he failed the last exam? I might feel a tad uncomfortable myself.

Now I’m sitting in my Elizabethan Lit class, and Dan is next to me, his gun hanging from a belt on his waist. He occasionally pats it during class (I’m one of those guys who regularly pats my side and back pockets to check for my keys and wallet, so I can understand why Dan might do that), or he fidgets with the gun in the same innocent way someone else is playing with a ring or a bracelet. I have to admit, I’m going to feel pretty unsafe. Chances are, my mind is going to wander from the Shakespeare sonnet we’re discussing at the moment. This is not an atmosphere that’s conducive to learning.

So do I call the campus police and tell them Dan makes me nervous? With guns prevalent on campus, probably not.

Am I proving myself to be a typical wimpy liberal by worrying about that gun? I don’t think so. If I say, “That guy next to me with all those tattoos makes me nervous,” that’s my problem. If I say, “That guy next to me with the gun makes me fear for my life,” that’s a whole different level of magnitude.

Here’s something else Chief Daykin mentioned. If the bill becomes law and he sees someone on campus with a weapon, he has no way of knowing if that student or professor (or complete stranger who wandered onto campus) has a permit. Daykin would have to decide who to ignore and who to ask for a permit. Tough call.