Wash Post Bemoans 'Controversial' College Campus Conceal Carry Law Despite Wide Support

May 3rd, 2016 3:18 PM

The establishment press's obsession with labeling anything it and the left don't like as "controversial" has rarely been as obvious as in the case of Tennessee's move to allow full-time university faculty and staff to carry handguns on campus.

One particularly blatant example of "controversial" bias in connection with the Volunteer State law appeared Monday evening at the Washington Post's Grade Point blog. Naturally, the "C-word" appeared in the item's headline:

Faculty can carry handguns on public college campuses under controversial new Tennessee law

University of Tennessee law professor and Instapundit founding blogger Glenn Reynolds' response:

It passed both house of the leglislature by veto-proof majorities and the Governor let it pass into law because he didn't want to buck its popular support. But it's "controversial."

Reporter Elahe Izadi gave relatively equal space to supporters and opponents, but she ignored the most relevant information available at a story at another Post blog less than two weeks ago.

But first, here are excerpts from her entry (links are in original and bolds are mine throughout this post):

Full-time employees at Tennessee’s public colleges and universities can now carry handguns on campus under a bill that became law Monday, although without the governor’s signature.

... The law, which allows full-time employees to carry concealed handguns, protects higher education institutions from monetary liability for handgun use. Those who want to carry guns on campus have to notify law enforcement and have a valid conceal carry permit. According to the (Nashville) Tennessean, handguns can’t be brought into stadiums or gymnasiums, and the law doesn’t allow students to carry handguns on campus.

Faculty and staff also can’t carry concealed handguns in meetings for discussing disciplinary or tenure issues, or into hospitals, according to the Associated Press.

Campuses have become a new battleground in the debate over gun control and access, as mass shootings have prompted legislators in several states in recent years to propose similar laws as that in Tennessee. In 2014, legislators in 14 states introduced bills allowing concealed weapons on campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

... In Tennessee, allowing concealed handguns on public campuses has attracted criticism from University of Tennessee faculty who argued it makes them feel less safe. A poll conducted by UT Faculty President Bruce MacLennan found 87 percent strongly disagreed that “allowing guns on campus is in the best interest of the campus community,” the Knoxville News Sentinel reported. Of the 1,700 faculty members, 42 percent responded to the survey.

“Overall, (the Faculty Senate) thinks the bill is a very bad idea,” MacLennan said, the newspaper reported. Some faculty respondents threatened to leave their jobs should the bill become law.

Student leaders at Middle Tennessee State University and Austin Peay State University also opposed the measure.

... But proponents of the bill dismissed such critiques, arguing that allowing concealed handguns would increase campus safety, particularly in light of active shooter situations.

Sen. Mike Bell (R), a sponsor of the bill, responded to comments from the UT poll during a Senate floor debate, saying, “I think some of these people need to take their medication.”

In her writeup, Izadi chose to ignore David Kopel's highly relevant April 20 Volokh Conspiracy blog entry at the Post itself (HT Breitbart):

Guns on university campuses: The Colorado experience

... In 2003, the Colorado legislature enacted the Concealed Carry Act. The statute was written by County Sheriffs of Colorado, the organization which represents all 62 of Colorado’s elected Sheriffs. The Act passed with broad bipartisan support, including all Republicans and almost every Democrat except some from Denver and Boulder. The National Rifle Association and the Firearms Coalition of Colorado supported the Act.

According to the Concealed Carry Act, a carry permit is valid “throughout the state,” with certain exceptions.

... The bill has no special exemption for public institutions of higher education; an amendment to create such an exemption was proposed on the House floor, and defeated. Of course since the Concealed Carry Act requires that a permitee be at least 21 years old, most undergraduates were not eligible for permits. When the Concealed Carry Act became law on July 1, 2003, Colorado State University (30,000 students;  main campus in Fort Collins) promptly complied. In 12 years of licensed carry at CSU, there have never been any problems caused by licensed carriers.

... The experience on Colorado campuses since 2003, and at the University of Colorado since 2012, shows that adult students or professors who are permitted by their local Sheriff to carry a concealed handgun for lawful protection do not perpetrate unlawful aggression. There has been one case in which an employee at  CU’s dental school was showing off her gun, and accidentally fired it.  She was immediately and properly fired.

The Volokh Conspiracy is a group blog which began in 2002, and migrated its content to the Post in January 2014. It describes itself as "generally libertarian, conservative, centrist, or some mixture of these, though we don’t toe any party line." It also remains editorially independent:

We are not Washington Post employees, and we have sole editorial control over the blog. We are very pleased to be working with the Post people, but please don’t ascribe our views to them, or vice versa.

It's reasonable to believe that many employees at the Post are not "very pleased" with Volokh's independence, and are perhaps frustrated that management hasn't "done something" to turn it into a collection of leftist shills. Until that day arrives, it would appear that Post beat reporters like Izadi are determined to pretend that Volokh doesn't exist.

As to those who objected to Tennessee's law, which by being limited to faculty is far narrower in scope than Colorado's law, since when does something become "controversial" because people who are obviously ignorant oppose it?

The "obviously ignorant" tag is certainly not too strong in the circumstances. In opposing the measure, the UT faculty and the university students Izadi cited are:

  • Ignoring the Colorado experience Volokh's Kopel detailed.
  • Ignoring two other key points Kopel made based on national experience. The first is that "Analyzing a data set of  27,595 attempted violent crimes and 16 types of protective actions, (the National Crime Victimization Survey authored by Professor Gary) Kleck found that resisting with a gun greatly lowered the risk of the victim being injured, or of the crime being completed." The second, contrary to leftist dogma seen at the likes of the New York Times and elsewhere, is that "statistics show that fewer than one percent of defensive gun use results in the defender’s gun being taken."
  • Ignoring the myriad examples of guns saving lives, in several cases preventing horrible mass shootings. The press has been notably reluctant to give much notice to such incidents for several decades. Many such events go unreported.
  • Unaware that the vast majority of on-campus mass shootings have occurred in so-called "gun free zones." In fact, "Since at least 1950, all but two public mass shootings in America have taken place where general citizens are banned from carrying guns."
  • Essentially contending that full-time faculty members and staff at Tennessee's universities are less responsible with their guns than students in Colorado who have been allowed to carry on campus for over a dozen years — and in several faculty cases, have promised to quit their positions because of that belief.

The Nashville Tennessean's coverage of the Tennessee law also headlined it as "controversial," even though the legislative passage was a blowout: "The bill ... won Senate approval 28-5 on April 19 and House approval the following day on a 69-24 vote." The Tennesseean also reported that "Tennessee Democratic Party chair Mary Mancini criticized Haslam's decision, saying allowing guns on college campuses defies common sense."

All one can conclude is that when an overwhelmingly supported, sensible law supporting a basic constitutional freedom is labeled "controversial," it can only mean the following: "We — the left and the establishment press (virtually one and the same) — don't like it."

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.