January 21, 2016
Representative Jim Lucas
Speaker of the House Brian Bosma
President Pro Tempore David C. Long
Majority Leader Brandt Hershman
Majority Whip Ryan Mishler
Minority Leader Timothy Lanane
Dear Honorable State Assembly Members,
We are writing in our capacity as faculty at colleges and universities across Indiana to express our unequivocal opposition to House Bill 1055, which “Prohibits a state agency, including a state supported college or university, from regulating the possession or transportation of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories: (1) on land that is; or (2) in buildings and other structures that are; owned or leased by the state. Provides for certain exceptions. Voids, as of July 1, 2016, any rules or policies enacted or undertaken by a state agency before, on, or after June 30, 2016, concerning possession or transportation of firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories on land or in structures owned or leased by the state. Allows a person to bring an action against a state agency if the person is adversely affected by a rule, a measure, an enactment, or a policy of the state agency that violates this law” (https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2016/bills/house/1055). Currently, Indiana is one of twenty-three states that permit individual public universities and colleges to ban or allow concealed weapons on campus, and we feel strongly that our institutions should retain this important authority.
According to a recent FBI statistic, arguments that have gotten out of hand are the primary causes of murders committed by guns (see https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to). Many academics pride ourselves on developing critical thinking abilities in the classroom and for introducing students to histories, ideas, and scientific principles that challenge their orthodoxies, thereby helping instill civic values that contribute to a more robust democracy and a better world. In an environment where we are fostering debate, campus carry policies create an intimidating climate for the free exchange of ideas. The knowledge that people might be armed in the classroom will have a chilling effect on the willingness of students and faculty to debate important issues of our day.
Moreover, the presence of armed civilians on campus also makes the job of campus security and local police much more difficult should we experience an active shooter incident. How is law enforcement to distinguish between the perpetrators and well-meaning bystanders under these circumstances? Campus carry advocates often claim that armed civilians act as a deterrent to such attacks. Here FBI statistics are also revealing: between 2000-2013, only 1 in 160 active shooter incidents was thwarted by a civilian with a concealed carry permit while unarmed civilians intervened successfully in 21 incidents (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2014/september/fbi-releases-study-on-active-shooter-incidents/pdfs/a-study-of-active-shooter-incidents-in-the-u.s.-between-2000-and-2013). Even more sobering, however, some studies have demonstrated that possessing weapons during an assault is of questionable value. According to epidemiologists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, “people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun” (http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2009/09/gun-possession-safety/).
State employees in Indiana should not be required to work under conditions that make injuries and deaths from guns more likely, and students at state institutions should not be endangered by having to attend classes and university events at which guns may be present. In Texas, where a similar bill will go into effect in the fall of 2016, private universities not required by the new law to allow campus carry have opted not to change their gun-free policies. Administrators and boards of trustees at those private institutions have weighed the evidence and decided that guns do not belong on their campuses (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-texas-campuscarry-idUSKBN0U12NE20151218; http://www.houstonchronicle.com/local/education/campus-chronicles/article/texas-private-universities-college-campus-carry-6683280.php). In addition, thousands of faculty, staff, and students at state institutions in Texas have expressed their opposition to the law through petitions, protest marches, and writing articles.
In Indiana, schools and college campuses have already seen episodes of gun violence that have traumatized students and faculty. A 21 year-old Purdue student, in 2014, was shot on campus by another student, who then surrendered (http://www.jconline.com/story/news/crime/2014/04/12/purdue-shooting-campus-electrical-engineering/7634661/). This episode left the entire Purdue campus and community grieving and unsettled. Purdue Student Government has already voted to reject supporting legislation to allow guns on campus (http://www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2014/01/21/purdue-university-policy-prohibits-gun-use-possession-on-campus/4721777/). Instead of acting against such initiatives by passing House Bill 1055, we should follow our students’ leadership, which is paving the way to safer campuses and a more secure future.
Campus carry advocates often tout their second amendment rights. We would remind you about the right of students, staff, and faculty to feel secure in our workplaces; we hope that you will respect ourright to debate ideas without the fear of being maimed or killed for expressing a particular point of view by opposing House Bill 1055.
Sincerely,Purnima Bose, Associate Professor, English and InternationalStudies; Indiana University, Bloomington
Bill V. Mullen, Professor of American Studies, Purdue University
John Bodnar, Chancellors Professor and Distinguished Professor, History, Indiana University,Bloomington
Susan Cannon Harris, Associate Professor of English, Notre Dame University
Mona Bhan, Associate Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, Depauw University
Rebecca Dyer, Associate Professor of English, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology