In a recent email announcing a new policy of arming a Public Safety officers at Quinnipiac, the University sought to justify its decision by noting its conformity to similar programs at other elementary schools, high schools and colleges. It is an understandable, if misguided, rationalization. In the aftermath of a rash of horrific school tragedies many of us desire assurances that such incidents could be prevented in our communities. Armed safety officers, however, merely provide a false veneer of security at QU while normalizing increased police powers within our community.
This is potentially troubling for a number of reasons.
I am personally troubled by the sudden presence of guns on our campus. We know that having a gun in one’s home makes that home more dangerous. An Emory University study found that a gun owned by an individual is 22 times more likely to be used in criminal assaults or homicides, suicide or accidental shootings than to be used in self-defense. Quinnipiac is home to many of us, and we should have a say in whether or not we make this choice.
I am personally troubled by the implied increased powers of pseudo-cops on our campus. Historically, the meteoric rise in the powers of local police forces has been matched only by the excesses and abuses in their enforcement of the laws. When law enforcement personnel are given increasing amounts of power, they tend to feel compelled to use that power to justify its existence. I am not suggesting that campus police will start raiding dorms, and my interactions thus far with public safety officers have been nothing but positive.
When we authorize our campus security to have guns, however, we are presumably authorizing them to use deadly force on our campus. If not, what is the point of giving a campus security officer a gun when he cannot choose to fire that gun whenever he believes it to be necessary? I merely believe that the decision to authorize the use of deadly force on our campus is one that should be arrived at following more of a campus-wide dialogue.
This argument is not about the 2nd Amendment, or a growing police state, it is about the ability of individuals to make informed decisions about what measures they are willing to take to ensure their own safety. Police directors at the federal, state and local levels serve at the pleasure of elected officials who can be ousted from office if their constituents disagree with them. Individuals can choose whether or not to keep a firearm on their own property.
The students of Quinnipiac University, however, were given no choice in the decision to have armed officers on the campus that serves as their home. We have no recourse if we disagree with the decision. We are all adults, and if decisions are being made for our own ostensible safety, then we should have a say in them.