Today the Missouri Senate Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety committee voted HB575 out of committee. This is a bill that would force the state’s public universities to allow concealed carry of loaded firearms on their campuses, against the wishes of the people actually responsible for the welfare of the students (and staff, and faculty) who are there every day and against the overwhelming evidence that it will make campus less safe, not more safe. The vote on the committee was 5-0. Democrats, who were outnumbered on the committee, were absent. It heads now to the Senate floor.
I testified the other day in front of the committee in opposition to this bill, and talked about my time as Director of Graduate Studies and, currently, Director of Undergraduate Studies for my department, and how I’ve learned a lot about the stress that students are under these days, about the jobs they’re working while taking a full load of classes, about the emotional and mental health issues they’re dealing with. I talked about how maybe introducing firearms into this mix was a bad idea. Other people talked about the rising rates of depression and the far higher rates of “success” when suicide attempts involve firearms; still others talked about the chilling effect on classroom discussion the mere possibility of the presence of concealed weapon would have.
Senator Brian Williams spoke out strongly against the bill for this last reason, saying that it was in classes in college that he learned how to get along with people who hold different ideas than he holds, which lessons made possible his ability to work with people like the Senators from the opposing party. That the MO GOP continues, every year, to try to ram legislation like this through, is incredibly frustrating to those of us who work on these campuses, send our children to them, want to be part of the life of higher education in our state.
Today and tomorrow my campus is filled with high school band students from around the state (and many of their families), here for their annual competition. I can hear them practicing outside my window right now. They are in black tie and they are nervous and goofy and very teenaged. Every year they descend on Tate Hall and other buildings, clogging up the hallways, making beautiful noise, honking and bleating and warming up, excited to be on the campus of their state university. I wonder if they’ll want to come back next year.