First, I just want to clearly tell everyone: I’m not anti-gun; I’m anti-idiot with a gun. Self-defense is a basic right for all people. This right should not to be confused with interpretations of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution that gun aficionados seem to thing means, “it’s our right to own a plethora of dangerous firearms.” I don’t think gun ownership is enshrined in the Constitution as much as it’s a realistic side effect of the gun culture of the United States. With the proliferation of guns in America, self-defense efforts can justifiably include responsibly owning a gun.
Second, I want you to know I’m from Idaho and have been around gun owners for my entire life. My dad had a gun, so did my grandparents. My brother and most of my friends have a private arsenal, which is typical for male Idahoans (A typical personal arsenal in Idaho includes healthy mix of handguns, hunting rifles, semi-auto “protection” pieces, and plenty of the ammo that goes along with them conveniently stocked in a decorative display case or gun safe. A $2,000 to $10,000 value). While I don’t currently own a gun, I’ve been no stranger to shooting; however, I never practiced enough to be any good at hunting. Many of my friends have concealed carry permits and bring at least one gun wherever they go—just in case. While this is my heritage, I don’t currently own a gun but I do have a daughter so stay tuned…
The axiom is true: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. The problem with America’s gun culture is we haven’t been able to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and idiots that use them to cause harm. That’s why I’m so appalled at the recent passage of Idaho State Bill 1254, which allows university students to openly carry firearms on Idaho college campuses (http://www.legislature.idaho.gov/legislation/2014/S1254.htm).
Idaho students: Don’t forget your laptop…and your handgun
I’m no lawyer, but the bill appears to allow students and professors over 21-years-old the right to obtain a concealed carry permit that would allow them to bring guns to campus. Exceptions include university dorms and on-campus sports arenas (meeting places that hold over 1,000 people). Those exemptions are good because visiting football fans can still come and see the BSU Broncos stomp your university’s team on our blue turf without fear. Most incredibly, Idaho’s law will allow students to openly carry guns on campus, so my alma maters Boise State and the University of Idaho may start looking like the set of William Shakespere’s Romeo and Juliet (without Leonardo DiCaprio or Claire Danes or the old English accent, of course).
Personally, I think it’s a very bad idea to allow students to carry guns to school. The Boise Chief of Police, university students, administrators, and professors think it’s a bad idea too. Boise State University President Bob Kustra also thinks it’s a bad idea. In his statement (http://media.spokesman.com/documents/2014/02/Kustra-statement-2-26-14.pdf), Kustra notes that, while several other states allow students to bring guns to school, Idaho’s law is the only one that allows students to roll with a gun dangling from their thigh like Han Solo or Clint Eastwood. Kustra also notes that the law takes away the power of local governments to craft gun laws, remarks that underage children on campus will be entering an environment where guns are openly carried, and cops will have a more difficult time discerning the “good guys” from the “bad guys.” Many professors also object to SB 1254. Boise State professor Greg Hampikian published an op-ed piece presciently asking Idaho’s legislature; “When May I Shoot a Student.”
While I object to allowing students to bring their guns to class, I understand that it’s not just a bad idea because of the age of the gun owners. Allowing young people to have guns is not always the smartest idea, but having the opportunity to learn about safe gun use at a young age is the only way to create responsible gun owners. I wouldn’t go as far as to say guns are tools, but I do think learning responsible gun ownership is a lot like learning how to drink responsibly. The prohibition on drinking before age 21 is one of the main reasons our youth have problems with alcohol as teens and in college. How are young people supposed to know how to responsibly use alcohol if they are forced to hide their drinking as minors?
As long as you’re not a criminal, Americans can legally own a firearm at age 18, but I know quite a few people that had their own gun by the time they were in middle school. We can own a handgun once they turn 21. There are millions of Americans that have been educated in how to properly handle and use all sorts of firearms. They safely carry and use guns all across the country every day. There are also millions of Americans that have no such practice and use them irresponsibly to cause all sorts of harm (see my earlier statement on idiots and guns). Gun ownership in America is fueled by sportsmen, individuals that want self-defense, and the almighty gun lobby. In the U.S., certain entities promote gun ownership as a means to sell more guns and to block any legislation that curbs gun proliferation. This “gun lobby”, specifically the National Rifle Association, was firmly behind Idaho’s passage of SB 1254. Unfortunately, special interest groups’ pro-gun efforts prevent law enforcement from ending the almost monthly school shootings that randomly happen across the country.
On the surface, it seems like SB 1254 is opening Pandora’s Box. The reality is: most of the students that wanted to carry a gun to school were already doing it. I personally know several of my fellow students that always had a gun on them and probably brought them to school. I’d wager several professors in Idaho also carry guns on campus. As I mentioned before, millions of Americans have permits to carry guns with them at all times, in every city in every state, every day without any incident. So, I have to ask: if lots of Americans are already carrying guns, even on campuses, why do we care? What are we afraid of? Getting shot? Because that can happen even if you have a gun.
Real archaeologists with guns
It’s a well-known fact that many Americans have concealed carry permits. The smartest of these individuals carry their weapons without you even knowing it. However, it is always a little disconcerting to non-gun owners like myself when I learn that a friend, co-worker, or acquaintance is one of those concealed carriers. It’s also a well-known fact that the majority of archaeologists are liberal, which is frequently associated with non-gun owners and the anti-gun lobby (Yes there is an anti-gun lobby, but it’s less powerful than the pro-gun lobby– probably because they don’t have guns).
While our archetypes Laura Croft and Indiana Jones both carried and (liberally) used guns, real archaeologists are not known for our gun skills or even known to carry guns. The reality is some of us do carry guns. I’ve heard through the grapevine that some of us even carry them while out on fieldwork. Fortunately, I’ve never heard of any of us using our piece while on the job (If you have any archaeo “Tales of the Gun”, please email me or comment below. I swear to keep your information confidential. I just want to know if I’m the only archaeologist that isn’t carrying a gun).
It only seems logical that in a gun-soaked country like the United States that some archaeologists would have concealed carry licenses that allow them to bring guns to work. Based on news reports, none of these archaeos have used their guns at work (Thank God). Personally, I don’t care if somebody wants to come to work looking like Pancho Villa as long as they can do the work and it’s not a violation of any law, client stipulation, company policy, or contract. I grew up around guns and gun owners. I’m not afraid of guns or the people that carry them unless they start acting irresponsible or threatening. If you’re not breaking any rules and feel more comfortable at work with your firearm at your side, I’m fine with that.
Just know that anyone who’s not a law enforcement official that carries a gun on their hip looks absolutely ridiculous and is preparing for a situation that I can almost guarantee will never happen to the vast majority of gun carriers. They’re like urban preppers that spend thousands of dollars on supplies for a disaster that is extremely unlikely and, if a disaster did come, it wouldn’t pan out the way you prepared for and you still have a good chance of ending up like the rest of the non-preppers. Concealed carriers are slightly better, but, for most of us, the odds of ever having to use your piece in the U.S. are never in your favor.
Guns in the archaeology classroom
I proudly spent my undergraduate years at Boise State University, just like my mother and father before me. I also earned my MA at the University of Idaho along with my brother. Currently, I go to the University of Arizona which is located in a very gun-friendly part of the country. I’m under no delusion that, unbeknownst to me, I’ve gone to archaeology classes at these schools where some of the students and, possibly, professors brought a gun with them into the room. While I’m strolling the beautiful grounds at UArizona, I’m keenly aware that any one of the students walking beside me could have a gun in her/his backpack, belt, or somewhere else on their body. It’s America. We have guns.
I’ve also worked on archaeology projects across this country for a number of companies and organizations. Most of this work has been in the gun-friendly American West. Guns have been brandished at us while we’re in the field. Farmers, ranchers, and rural dwellers don’t take kindly to agents of the state, including CRM archaeologists. They demonstrate this disapproval by showing us their guns. I’m also not naïve enough to believe none of my co-workers was carrying a gun while we were in the field. Some of them probably were (although, I hope nobody brought a gun with them while we were working on a military base). Again, it’s America. We have guns. Fortunately, I’ve never been in a situation in the field where we needed a gun. Other CRM archaeologists have and it’s a good thing they didn’t have or didn’t use their gun. Otherwise, these situations could have gotten a lot messier.
Idaho is my birthplace and I hate seeing its reputation tarnished by needless, psychotic doomsday legislation like SB 1254. Remember how everyone thought about us when the skinheads in northern Idaho were marching and waiving their flags (and guns)? Most of the black people in my family still can’t believe I grew up in Idaho and didn’t have a permanent cross-shaped candelabra in our front yard. This campus concealed carry law makes us look even more like backwoods, hillbilly scaredy cats. I know that no real Idahoan gives a damn what anyone thinks of her/him, but our image matters to companies that may want to invest in our state and educated skilled workers that may have the chance of relocating to Idaho or studying there. Look at what happened when Arizona tried to pass a discriminatory anti-gay bill. Do you really want intelligent scientists, influential professors, smart students, and companies with research dollars to pass on Idaho’s universities just because the out-of-touch conservatives in the legislature want to window dress for the NRA?
SB 1254 is not a done deal. Idaho’s Republican governor C.L. “Butch” Otter still has to sign the bill. There’s a pretty good chance he’ll do it even though law enforcement, professors, and students don’t want guns on their campuses. The law is actually wholly unnecessary because anyone that had a concealed carry permit and wanted to bring a gun to class could easily do so without being detected. Ever heard of don’t ask, don’t tell? That’s what’s already been happening and nobody seemed to mind until now. Just don’t ask…
(Full Disclosure: I’m a wannabe prepper because of all the cool gear you can buy, but my wife won’t let me go full aught prepper.)
Epilogue: Governor Otter signed SB 1254 into law on March 11, 2014. Stay tuned to your television to see how bad of an idea that was.
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