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Monday, December 09, 2019

In Colorado, Empty Gun Dorm Sends A Message

Young people are not exactly renowned for their judgment.

We are, after all, talking about an age group that has to be told it is a bad idea to text while doing 70. Or drink alcohol till it spews from your nostrils. Or wear a T-shirt and flip-flops to interview for an office job.

So no, judgment is not their forte. Yet even they have enough sense to steer clear of the gun dorm.

You haven’t heard about the gun dorm? Well, back in August, the University of Colorado announced it was segregating students with valid concealed-carry permits in dorms of their own on its campuses in Boulder and Colorado Springs. This, after the state Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that struck down the school’s ban on people bringing guns on campus. So now, a student 21 years or older who has a permit may be armed in the dorm or even in class, though not, for some reason, at a school event requiring a ticket.

Recently, the Denver Post decided to count the number of young gunslingers who wanted to live among their own. How many kids had rushed to take advantage of this opportunity?

Let’s just say there is not a waiting list. The Post reports the number of kids who opted for the gun dorm is zero. A big, fat goose egg.

The paper speculated on a few reasons for this: maybe there are not enough students with carry permits who live on campus; maybe students with such permits find it more convenient just to sneak their guns into the old dorm.

OK. But isn’t it also possible at least some of this preference for unleaded dorms reflects a happy outbreak of simple sanity? Is it too much to hope at least some students recognize — as the court did not — that an environment full of immature judgment, poor impulse control, overactive hormones, sexual rivalries, drug use and binge drinking is perhaps, not the best place to introduce weapons of mass destruction?

One keeps thinking that surely there has to be some middle ground that balances the rights of responsible adults to own firearms with the need of a society to ensure that people who ought not have access to them are denied. But we will never get there so long as the debate is dominated by the sort of extremism Colorado exemplifies.

As has happened with conservatism generally, the gun rights movement has lurched hard to the right in recent years, has alienated reason, ostracized compromise and fetishized guns and gun ownership to a point that seems psychologically unhealthy.

What was once a campaign to ensure the right of people to bear arms has mutated into a campaign to ensure guns at all times for everybody everywhere and to smack down those who would seek to ban them, even from places where banning them makes obvious sense.

In Georgia, for instance, they’ve been arguing over whether or not to allow guns in churches.

In Arizona, Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia, you can bring a gun into a bar.

And now, in Colorado, where a deranged man shot up a movie theater in July and two disaffected teenagers broke the nation’s heart with a 1999 massacre at their high school, they say it’s OK to bring guns into the dorm.

An armed citizenry will help deter crime, goes the “thinking.” As if we were all living on the set of some old TV western.

But this is not Bonanza. This is a nation where shell casings crunch underfoot, children and the mentally ill have guns, and there have been, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, 60 mass shootings just since the attack on Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. You do not solve a problem of too many guns in the wrong hands with a policy of guns at all times for everybody, everywhere.

Maybe that’s the message of the empty gun dorm. And that suggests pretty good judgment after all.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for the Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via email at lpitts@miamiherald.com.)

(c) 2012 The Miami Herald Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Photo by “JimmyMac210” via Flickr.com

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