December 18, 2012

Open Carry Laws And Education

My heart is heavy and has been since I learned of the shooting at the Connecticut elementary school. This blog was inspired by that. Americans need to have a very real discussion about gun violence and schools.

Let me start with this declaration: I am not anti-2nd Amendment. I do not wish to see it overturned. All I wish is that we have a very honest discussion about guns. I am anti-gun personally, but I understand why others own them, and I would never want to keep people from their guns. I live in Oklahoma where many, many individuals need guns to hunt for their food. This I support.

Now onto the real issue. Oklahoma just recently passed and instituted Senate Bill 1733, which changed the concealed carry law to one of open carry. Now, anyone who pays for and receives a permit can carry their gun openly, loud and proud. I feel like we are back in the wild west here.

This open carry law is nerve-wracking. Anyone with a couple hundred dollars can carry their pistols (including derringers, revolvers, and semi-automatic pistols—and these must be smaller than a .45-caliber barrel) and brandish them across the state.

Of course, there is supposed prohibition for where a permit holder can openly carry. According to NewsOK.com, they include the following:

  • Any business that displays a sign prohibiting firearms.
  • All city, state and federal buildings.
  • All elementary and secondary school properties and on school buses.
  • An establishment where alcohol is consumed if the sale of alcohol constitutes the establishment’s primary source of income.
  • Any place where pari-mutuel wagering is authorized.
  • Any sports arena during a professional sporting event.
  • A meeting of almost any governmental entity or legislative body; any jail, prison or detention facility.
  • Any place owned or leased by a city, state or federal government for the purpose of conducting public business.
  • Any courthouse.
  • Colleges, universities and technology centers, except where authorized.
  • Any other place specifically prohibited by law.

As I am sure you noticed, elementary and secondary schools as well as college and university campuses are part of this list. That should be comforting, I know, but it is not. As we all know, people do not often follow prohibition. I am a college professor, so this issue is one that is near and dear to my heart. My profession sometimes demands that I have uncomfortable encounters. Sometimes students do not like their grades, or they do not like the class discussions. These are where my concerns about open carry laws come in.

What if a student disregarded the prohibition of bringing their pistols onto college campuses? What if this same student is disgruntled about his grade (it could also be a her, but statistics show that most gun violence is perpetrated by males.). Now, students who have the open carry permit can possibly take violent action. It hasn’t happened yet, but no one expected an elementary school to be the devastating site of gun violence either.

The open carry law in Oklahoma worries me for the safety of all of us, especially on college and university campuses because they are emotionally charged places. Education should be a place of open discussions and comfortable atmospheres. Guns do not contribute to either of those. Guns have their purposes, their uses, but school campuses are not places where guns serve a purpose.

If people are going to own guns, they must be responsible. If people sell guns, they also must be responsible. And the government must accept its role in gun responsibility, too. I support the 2nd Amendment, but I also support being responsible. School shootings, be they at elementary schools, high schools, colleges, or universities, must make us consider gun responsibility. Tragedies like this require a conversation about our choices and our laws.

Image Credit: Photos.com

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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