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Guns and grade inflation

By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter

I’m sure there are many bills in the Alabama Legislature I’ll take issue with this year. Heck, there will probably be some I support.

But the one I’m not real happy about right now is HB12, a proposed constitutional amendment (like Alabama’s constitution needs another amendment) that would permit people with concealed carry pistol permits to carry their guns on college campuses in the state.

So far, the proposed amendment hasn’t moved an inch. Good. But, hey, this is Alabama, so it very well could.

I’m an English instructor at UAB, and I don’t want my students (or any students, or teachers, or anybody except the UAB police department) to carry weapons to class.

I give F’s every now and then. I certainly don’t want a student who can’t write a simple college essay to bring a pistol to class. Especially on those days I return graded papers.

The amendment, proposed by Rep. Mack Butler, R-Rainbow City, will allow presidents of a “public institution of higher education to adopt reasonable rules regarding the carrying of concealed pistols by permit holders … with certain limitations,” but won’t allow those institutions to outright prohibit guns being carried.

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Private colleges, meanwhile, can “adopt rules prohibiting permit holders from carrying pistols on the campus of the institution, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by the institution is being conducted, or a passenger transportation vehicle owned by the institution.”

In other words, private colleges and universities can, correctly, ban firearms from campus, but public institutions cannot.

The proposal is legislative hypocrisy at its worst. The building where Butler practices lawmaking, the Alabama State House, bans not only pistols, but practically anything that can be used as a weapon.

I was at the State House last week, and I had to surrender my tiny Swiss army knife that I use mainly to open packages and trim my fingernails. The State House security crew kept my knife for me and returned it when I left, and I didn’t mind. They were very kind. Yet, Butler and his colleagues won’t allow weapons in the State House, but they want to mandate that I have to deal with them on my college campus, in my college classes?

On days when I hand out graded papers (or deliver a particularly lousy lecture)?


If the misguided amendment makes it through the Legislature, it’ll have to go before voters to be approved. This is Alabama, though; I see whom we elect to the Legislature and state offices. I don’t want voters to decide if I have to wonder, class-in and class-out, who’s packing in my classrooms.

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When I was working on my master’s degree, I did a research paper on students with mental health issues in colleges in the United States. There were tens of thousands of them in the early 2000’s. I can’t imagine, with increasing student populations, that number has gone down.

I don’t oppose the Second Amendment. I do, however, believe in reasonable restrictions, some of which we already have. But we need more: better and more widespread background checks; better mental health screening; restrictions on Internet guns sales and on those who sell guns as a “hobby.”

We have to start more aggressively enforcing the gun restrictions we already have. We must do something to tap down the deadly gun culture our state and nation have. We must start somewhere.

Don’t talk to me about “gun free” zones being a particular target for mass killers. I want gun free zones everywhere, except in a private home (for self-defense) or on the hunting field.

If Butler and his House co-sponsors want to expand where guns can be carried, let them start at the State House. Though, I’m not for that, either.

I definitely don’t want a student having a pistol in my classroom. If it happens, there are going to be a whole lot more A’s on even those crappy essays.

Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected].

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Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize winner, writes a column each week for the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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