I Resigned as Professor at University of Kansas to Protest State's Gun Laws

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Kansas City Star

I Resigned as Professor at University of Kansas to Protest State's Gun Laws

Following an apparent determination to allow the concealed carry of firearms in the classroom, I'm going elsewhere to teach

Even James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, and his friend Thomas Jefferson banned weapons on the grounds of the University of Virginia when they established the school in 1824, writes Jacob S. Dorman. (Image: Kansas City Star)

Ethan Schmidt, may he rest in peace, received his Ph.D. from the University of Kansas history department in 2007, the same year I started as a professor there and a decade before I resigned in protest of the state’s determination to allow concealed carry on campus. In the span of time that I published one book, Schmidt published two, all while teaching a heavy course load at Texas Tech and then at Delta State University in Mississippi, states that allow concealed carry everywhere, including on college campuses.

On Sept. 14, 2015, a fellow instructor shot Professor Schmidt on campus, then killed himself after a brief police chase.

The public needs to understand the basic facts of life and death in higher education. Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health reports that only 2.4% of school shootings involve a person on a rampage — the stereotypical homicidal villain.

The vast majority of shootings are far more mundane. In 2013, 2014, and 2015 there were 160 school shootings, including 79 at colleges and universities, according to data collected from media reports and verified with police departments by the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety. Almost half of these were arguments that escalated, and the rest were composed of almost equal percentages of premeditated attacks on a specific person, suicides or murder/suicides, and unintentional weapon discharges

Here come liberals with our darn facts.

On and off campus, the left-wing radical organization the FBI has documented that civilian gun use stopped only five out of 160 active shooter situations, while unarmed civilians stopped 21 shooters between between 2000 and 2013. Likewise, a gun stopped only one out of 1,119 sexual assaults in the National Crime Victimization Survey from 1992 to 2001.

No number of concealed guns could stop any of these tragedies without causing far more injuries and fatalities. In fact, the results are in: Amateurs carrying firearms on campus have caused more casualties than they have prevented. The notion that mass shooters choose only places that ban concealed carry is both false and nonsensical. Mass shooters are ready to die, and many do.

Even James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights, and his friend Thomas Jefferson banned weapons on the grounds of the University of Virginia when they established the school in 1824. “No Student shall, within the precincts of the University, introduce, keep or use any spirituous or vinous liquors, keep or use weapons or arms of any kind,” they declared along with the rest of the UVA board. If you are looking for the original intent of the Founders, it doesn’t get much more original or intentional than that.

With so many conservatives afraid to leave home without a piece, and many other citizens justifiably worried about being harassed for walking or driving while black or brown, am I the last person in America who actually has confidence in the police? No, they are not perfect, and any systematic police targeting of poor people, people of color, or religious and political dissidents has to stop, but the vast majority of officers do their best with great personal sacrifice and bravery in difficult and dangerous jobs. In fact, our entire economy and daily lives depend on basic public safety, and when it is lacking we all suffer.

If a student does not train as hard as a SWAT officer — constantly — he or she has a much greater chance of shooting him or herself by accidental discharge, being confused for an attacker or shooting someone in an argument than of stopping an assailant. Thinking that the pros want civilians with guns playing hero in the middle of an active shooter situation is like imagining that the Kansas City Chiefs want fans to bring footballs with them to games in case they run out of wide receivers.

But we all ought to recognize that ultimately whether Kansas allows guns in classrooms and mental hospitals, against both common sense and the nearly unanimous opposition of the experts who work in those places, is not about abstract rights.

It is about how a small-population interior state like Kansas can minimize preventable casualties and manage to retain and attract the very best professors and healers in the world, so that the state can have the best chance to create health and wealth for current and future generations. It is about succeeding as a state and region in the knowledge-based economies of the 21st century, so that more Kansans can find high-paying jobs without having to leave the state.

You cannot do that without excellent universities.

The Republican Party has a clear choice to make: to side with Madison, Jefferson, doctors, professors, the police, parents, legal originalism and basic common sense — or with a bunch of well-meaning NRA members and some noisy but outnumbered internet trolls who melt faster than the Wicked Witch of the West when you stand up to their bullying and point out that their theories don’t hold water.

Jacob Dorman

Jacob Dorman was an associate professor of history and American studies at the University of Kansas from 2007 to 2017. In protest over gun laws in Kansas, he resigned from his position.

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