As a college professor and mother of an Idaho college student, I am horrified that state lawmakers passed a bill allowing concealed weapons on university campuses. With Republicans outnumbering Democrats 4-1, some may not be surprised at the 50-19 House vote in favor of the bill. I, however, am shocked that rational human beings, mothers and fathers of children, who are among the lawmakers, would set aside their humanity to support such a dangerous measure.
One of my concerns with this legislation is the juxtaposition of ongoing racial tensions in the state, with the gun count aligning strongly with the white conservative majority. Some parents fear sending their children of color to campuses in Idaho because of the state's stigma, the lack of meaningful diversity and the absence of prejudice-reduction curriculum in many schools. Add an outrageous upsurge in gun murders of black youth recently by white adult perpetrators across the nation (most of which went unpunished), and tell me that I shouldn't be alarmed at allowing guns on the campus where my black son is completing his degree. I dare you to tell me that I should believe the hype perpetrated by the Idaho Sheriffs' Association, which supported the bill, that students packing guns makes campuses safer. No, I agree with the Boise State University president that this bill will do just the opposite. It will endanger everyone on campus and will strike a specific type of fear into students and faculty of color.
A second concern I have is the fact that concealed weapons are made for no other purpose than to kill human beings. I have heard the "hunting" defense for gun ownership. It is true that Idaho is a great wild-game-hunting state, but concealed weapons are not typically deer-hunting rifles. Hopefully we can agree that there is no wild game hunting to be done on campuses. And with a staggering rate of one in four female college students being sexually assaulted, how will the presence of guns affect the safety of our girls?
My third issue with the bill, which only awaits the governor's signature before becoming law, is the somewhat preschool level of training that is required to obtain a campus concealed weapon. No background checks, no sensitivity training or anger management classes, no lengthy explanation as to why this person feels the need to go to class armed — just eight hours of training is required. Not training by a law enforcement professional, either — just any random NRA instructor will do.
Although I taught at North Idaho College for the past eight years, I am now concentrating my instruction in the state of Washington and don't plan on going back, if for no other reason than the passage of this bill. I can't imagine trying to navigate tension with students over grades and assignments knowing that a loaded pistol could be pointed at me from under the student work desk. That is a special kind of terror that I hope never to face. ♦
Rachel Dolezal, formerly of the Human Rights Education Institute in Coeur d'Alene, is an award-winning artist and activist who teaches courses in art, Africana history and culture at area universities.