Galileo and Campus Carry: An open letter to UT Deans and Department Chairs

Dear Chairs and Deans,

It is heartening to know that many of you responded to my last letter by having your departments write collective statements against the implementation of SB11. I know of at least 5 departments and centers that will release such statements sometime this week, following in the footsteps of the Psychology Department.  Thank you.

In this, my third and last letter on this subject, I want to bring up a point that has been entirely overlooked: our utter failure as a center of learning to counter the propaganda that passes as knowledge. Through our silence, we have collectively allowed laws like SB 11 to find support with students, alumni, donors, parents, and the public at large. We fear intimidation. It is our moral obligation at this moment in the history of our nation to educate. What differentiates our fear to speak from Galileo’s before the Inquisition? In both cases it is the shaming mechanism of dogmatic faith-based belief that seeks to discipline us into submission. This is information that should be offered in classrooms, like teaching evolution or sexual reproduction.

It is not true that there is no scientific consensus on the impact guns have on crime, homicide, domestic violence, suicide, and sexual assault. The statistical evidence collected by scores of specialists is as overwhelming as that collected by astronomers on heliocentrism.  The mere presence of guns increases rates of crime, domestic abuse, suicide, homicide, and sexual abuse. The earth does circle around the sun.

It is not true that the reason our crime rates have gone down in the last two decades is because concealed carriers have succeeded as vigilantes. Despite all the anecdotal evidence, there is simply no credible scientific evidence to this effect. It is much easier, in fact, to draw a positive statistical correlation between the banning of lead paint or the legalization of abortion and the drop in crime. The only thing concealed carrier legislation has succeeded in doing is increasing the number of gun related injuries (suicides, accidents) in gun-owning households.

It is not true that concealed carriers will succeed in stopping mass-shooters, who only target gun-free zones. There is, again, massive evidence to the effect that well-meaning individuals who have been trained for  4 (four) hours to handle a gun not only get in the way of the police, but also are prone to act erratically under actual combat duress, endangering the lives of innocents. Finally, it has s been shown by criminologists that mass shooters do not select their targets because they are gun-free zones. I fear, however, that the irresponsible spread of this unfounded assertion will soon make this a self-fulling prophecy.

The claim that concealed carriers are not only law-abiding citizens, but also much less prone to crime is very difficult to investigate. Carriers, like the police, have been certified by the state and they ought not to be treated like the general citizenry when it comes to crime. We have the right to expect zero crimes from our police officers and so too from our certified gun carriers. How do they behave? The NRA has succeeded in blocking the gathering of data on this and many other gun-violence related claims. Information on arrests of concealed carriers is shielded by law in most states. The only data scientists have with which to work are convictions rates. Convictions, however, are unreliable forms of evidence, because there is a tendency in law enforcement not to prosecute, even when the action of concealed carriers leads to questionable deaths. In Texas there were 242,641 concealed carry licenses issued in 2013. Of licensed concealed handgun carriers, 158 were convicted of crimes that year. Of those convictions, 62 (42%) were related in one form or another to sexual assault, indecency, and/or abuse of a minor. The few times people with concealed carry licenses do commit crimes (and are convicted) they disproportionately are crimes related to sexual violence.   Although there is no way of knowing whether any concealed carrier was at all involved in any of these incidents, statistics of rape reports went up in Utah and Colorado campuses after the passing of concealed carrier laws. There is a clear statistical correlation between our gun culture and sexual violence. Parents ought to know about the statistical evidence of welcoming guns in dorms.

It’s not true that after the law is implemented there will be only 500 students who will secure licenses. In fact, in the last five years, 5,300 licenses were issued within the immediate vicinity of our campus. More worrisome, under Texas reciprocity laws it will be legal for 18-year-olds from Indiana (where one can commit violent misdemeanor and retain license) and Alabama  (where one does not need training or exam) with permits to be students on our campus and carry guns. Under the same reciprocity laws millions of concealed carriers of 33 different states would have the right to enter our classrooms and offices.  If the law is to be implemented, our campus ought to be declared a security zone, like an airport. The courts will be sympathetic to this request.

There is so much at stake in the process of implementing SB11. Our culture has been taken over by the most strange of logics:  to cure the maladies of our gun culture we need more guns. In the process those who speak are silenced by the threats of the pro-gun mob. It is the moral responsibility of this institution to fund research on gun violence.

“What starts here changes the world.” Change it!

Cordially yours

Jorge Canizares-Esguerra