|Guns on Campus Terrible Policy|
Nov. 6, 2009/Traverse City Record-Eagle
Wayne Schmidt and Michelle McManus have drawn plenty of criticism for recent legislation that would expand people's rights to carry concealed weapons in public places and prevent the state's public universities, colleges and community colleges from banning concealed weapons on campus.
And for good reason. Lots of people are having a hard time figuring out how preventing colleges from banning guns on campus, including overturning existing school rules, can be considered good public policy.
Schmidt, a first-term Republican state representative from Traverse City, and McManus, a Republican state senator from Lake Leelanau, recently affixed their names to legislation that would expand people's rights to carry concealed weapons even on college campuses crowded with 30,000 young people. That's a concept some find flat-out bizarre.
Schmidt said the bill is intended to "clear up confusion" in state gun laws and to ensure that only one voice -- the Legislature's -- dictates where weapons can be carried.
Simply put, Schmidt doesn't want Michigan university or college officials to be able to ban concealed weapons on their campuses. That decision should be up to the National Rifle Association, er, uh, state politicians.
"My view is the state Legislature should be the ultimate authority on that ... not local colleges," Schmidt said.
That's fine. Cleaning up conflicting rules is generally a good thing; citizens should be confident that they know the policy concerning concealed weapons from place to place.
But why does that also mean overturning long-standing rules -- created by the colleges themselves and the people charged with running those schools? Couldn't Schmidt, and the Legislature, just as easily endorse existing rules that say guns, education and huge concentrations of young people don't go together?
Obviously, there is another agenda at work here beyond "speaking with one voice."
Schmidt certainly doesn't appear to speak for some of his constituents, including some people in higher ed.
"I just don't think it's a good idea to have people on college campuses walking around with concealed pistols," said Tim Nelson, president of Northwestern Michigan College.
"It would just make me nervous knowing the guy sitting next to me in philosophy class has a gun in his pocket," added NMC student Jessica Cichowski. She thinks guns could create safety problems.
For her part, the McManus bill would roll back existing state restrictions on where concealed weapons can be carried. Her bill would allow guns in college classrooms and dorms.
"I've always been a pro-gun advocate ... I've been an advocate that if you are a law-abiding citizen, you should be able to carry," she said. She's running for Secretary of State in the 2010 elections.
Sorry, but many law-abiding citizens believe some places -- such as schools -- should not be gun zones.
We'd all be better served if Schmidt and McManus directed their energies toward resolving some of Michigan's massive budget problems -- like getting more kids to college.