Hostility on college campuses against Second Amendment threatens First

March 6, 2009

College and university campuses are supposed to be bastions of learning and the expression of different ideas, but when it comes to the Second Amendment, the door to the ivory tower is evidently closed.

Last October, Central Connecticut State University Prof. Paula Anderson reportedly assigned students in her communications class the task of presenting a discussion on a "relevant issue in the media." When student John Walhberg and two other students suggested that the Virginia Tech massacre could have been mitigated or stopped altogether if students or professors had been armed, Wahlberg wound up being quizzed by police about firearms he owns and where they are kept.

Wahlberg is a member of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, founded the day after the Virginia Tech massacre. His case is proof positive that not only is the Second Amendment under fire on college campuses, the First Amendment may be in serious trouble as well, and that should concern all of us, regardless your opinion about firearms.

While a spokesman for the university assured me that "the matter was looked into and no further action was taken," and that Wahlberg’s grade did not suffer, nor were any sanctions taken, that’s not terribly reassuring. Indeed, it’s almost insulting. What happened to this young man’s right of free speech? What happened to the notion of spirited debate in the interest of broadening one’s higher education?

Wahlberg’s story was first reported in the pages of the campus newspaper, The Recorder, and it was picked up recently by Fox News. I am writing about the story in the next issue of Gun Week. I devoted an entire chapter of "America Fights Back: Armed Self-Defense in a Violent Age" (with Alan Gottlieb) to the subject of deadly "gun free zones."

Wahlberg’s case has outraged gun rights activists, and it has also gotten the attention of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). FIRE Vice President Robert Shibley told me bluntly that students who support the notion of concealed carry on campus "are running into a real hostility towards the idea of Second Amendment rights on campus."

FIRE has been around for about ten years, and Shibley acknowledged up front that "the Second Amendment isn’t our thing." But freedom of speech and thought, and the expression of different ideas, no matter how controversial, are definitely at the top of FIRE’s priority list.

Shibley acknowledged that there exists, perhaps because of the Virginia Tech massacre, a heightened paranoia about guns within academia. But the problem goes deeper than that, and he contended that on university campuses, a very liberal culture exists, and it is becoming increasingly authoritarian.

College administrators and professors, he said, "don’t want to be challenged." When it comes to guns, intolerance is rampant. Officials at the University of Utah fought against guns on campus for several years, taking their case to the Utah Supreme Court and losing, and eventually dropping their appeal to federal court two years ago.

Administrators argue frantically that university campuses are no place for guns. Of course, Sueng-Hui Cho, who murdered 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech, and Steven P. Kazmierczak, who killed five students at Northern Illinois University, didn’t get the message.

So far, there have been no massacres at the University of Utah.

There is ample evidence that legally- armed citizens are a threat to nobody – except criminals perhaps – and even academics can learn from that. Provided, of course, they are as willing to learn as they want their students to be.

Schools: Central Connecticut State University