State Rep. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) has pushed for legislation in the wake of the shootings on Northern Illinois University’s campus that would make it legal for faculty and staff members at the University of Tennessee to carry concealed weapons.
Ken Baker, a UT lecturer in economics, responded to that proposed legislation with the following column in today’s Daily Beacon, UT’s student newspaper.
I think it’s right on. Your thoughts?
Several semesters ago, a student in one of my large economics lectures had an epileptic seizure — a big one, of the grand mal variety. And it was during a test. Needless to say, this created a great deal of commotion and confusion in the class. Some students were literally jumping out of the way while others were jumping in to help. A nursing student who happened to be in my class called out orders to help. Meanwhile, the student actually began to turn blue.
I didn’t have my cell phone with me, but my TA did. So, amidst this great deal of confusion, we called 911. Here is a (paraphrased) version of our call:
My TA: Hi. We have an emergency and we need medical assistance.
911 Operator: What is the emergency and where are you located?
My TA: There is a student having a seizure, and he seems to be having trouble breathing. We need an ambulance. We are located in Alumni Memorial Building, Room 210
911 Operator: What is the street address to that building?
My TA: I don’t know. Can you please send help?
911 Operator: I can’t send anyone unless I have a street address.
Now, to be fair to the emergency responders, everything worked out. An EMT person did (finally) arrive and the student was OK. But it was a very tense, very emotional few moments to say the least.
Why am I bringing this up now, several semesters later?
I was reading the Beacon’s article on Friday about state representative Stacey Campfield’s proposal to allow faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons on campus. This is in response to the attacks that have occurred on college campuses recently. Campfield claims this would help thwart such occurrences on our UT campus. As I fell asleep Friday night, I began to imagine how this might turn out…
A gun-toting maniac comes bursting through the doors of my class, two guns drawn, one in each hand. I shake my head in frustration at having my PowerPoint presentation over the intricacies of supply and demand disturbed, and calmly put down my remote presentation controller. Yelling “NOOOOOO”, I dive in between the gunman and my students, with no regard for my personal safety. While in mid-air, I pull out my .357 Magnum (the most powerful handgun in the world!), which was neatly concealed somewhere in the back of my pants, and clip off a few rounds, quickly eliminating the threat. All of this naturally occurs in super slow motion.
It goes without saying that I fell asleep with a smile on my face, picturing all the accolades, awards and parades in my honor that would surely soon follow. Maybe I could even take a bullet in the shoulder or something for more effect. But later I thought, “Wait a minute, I’m not Professor John McClane, the retired New York cop who now teaches economics at UT. I’m just Ken Baker, who would probably shoot his foot off first, and then potentially harm an innocent student. I think I’ve seen “Die Hard” one too many times — I have got to quit watching that every Friday night before I go to bed.”
The Beacon quoted Campfield as saying that if faculty are allowed to carry guns, it will make “…these crazies think twice before going on a shooting spree.” I believe a high school student can see the logical flaw in that statement. If they are indeed crazy, then I think it is safe to assume that they aren’t thinking clearly. Therefore, the whole “having more guns on campus as a deterrent” argument flies right out the window.
The bill provides that faculty who carry concealed weapons must complete at least eight hours of annual firearm training. My question is then: Is that enough training to allow someone in a mass of confusion to start popping off rounds in a crowded classroom? Let’s face it, there is a difference between a professional police officer and a casual gun enthusiast with a couple hours of training. If we believe that a professor who goes to the shooting range once a month is capable of making instantaneous life-or-death decisions in a crowded room, then maybe we’ve all seen “Die Hard” one too many times.
Instead, I have a better solution. Maybe instead of arming 5,000 people on campus, a better first step would be to take the time to train emergency first responders about the UT campus. Maybe we could familiarize them with actual building locations. Maybe we could give them a campus map right there at the switch board. Maybe instead of faculty spending eight hours in annual firearms training, the 911 operators could complete eight hours annual training in learning the UT campus. Let’s ensure that if something like this were to happen, God forbid, then someone could dial 911 and the operator would know immediately where the student/staff/faculty is located and send help at once. This would eliminate the costly minutes that my student endured during the seizure.
So I have two requests. The first is for our state legislators. Please do not pass any such bill allowing more guns on campus. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I feel that the solution to a gun problem is not more guns. If you agree, please contact your legislator and tell them to vote no on any such proposals.
The second is for our administrators, UT police and the Knoxville police. Our university community deserves better coordination between 911 and the UT campus. We’ve recently heard the concerns voiced by administrators and others in Knoxville about safety here at UT. We’ve implemented some preliminary steps toward the goal of improving safety, such as emergency text messaging. Another critical step would be to have the 911 operators become much more familiar with the UT campus.