Guns have become a prominent issue in heated 2016 elections, in social media debates across the country and, most recently, in the UMKC and Kansas City area.
This intensified focus stems from newly passed changes to Missouri gun laws. These laws will drop permit fees and training from conceal- and- carry obligations and amend Stand Your Ground legislation so that there is no duty to retreat before using a firearm. The adjustments also specify that gun-owners can opt for a lifetime permit in lieu of renewals, and that it will no longer be a crime to carry a gun into public spaces.
Junior Jordan Hohenstreet fears that the new laws could threaten the free exchanging of ideas that she experiences in university classrooms.
“[Firearms] can take a semi-heated argument into something between life and death,” Hohenstreet said. “I don’t think that creates much space for communication. I think that causes more of an action-based response.”
A concerned professor in the College of Arts and Sciences agreed that the changes could be detrimental to a safe campus environment. Their first reaction was to call the altered law “absolutely frightening.”
“I have no idea why schools have become such targets for violence, except, like the terrorists have figured out, it’s a soft target, so it’s an easy place to take out your rage,” the faculty member said. “It should be a place for learning and community, the end.”
Others appreciate what they view as increased opportunities to defend themselves. Senior and student leader Kacey Henik aligns with this opinion.
“I am actually one of the people who feel safer when more people have guns,” Henik said, “because I am of the belief that most people who carry a gun do so with good intentions.”
Furthermore, despite the media’s polarizing portrayal of gun stances, many firearm owners are questioning certain aspects of this decision along with their anti-gun counterparts. Student Tyedia Godsy cheered the law overall, but expressed discomfort with just how far it went.
“The loosening of these policies does upset me a bit,” Godly admitted. “There’s always going to be bad guys with guns. My stance is that the responsibility lies with the educated community to protect and serve those who could not otherwise protect themselves. Those who are out to do anyone harm will find a way. If we had more educated and confident individuals who were able to carry a gun, I feel like we could at least decrease the amount of damage that a particular individual could inflict.”
Some students shared worries pertaining to current social issues, anxious that newfound access to firearms would cause more violence to rapidly emerge. Proud black, LGBT student and activist C.J. Pulluaim wondered about future implications for police brutality and discriminatory attacks.
“We have people who don’t believe in our rights, so if we stand up for our rights what will they do to shut it down?” Pulluaim asked. “Several times in history, we think about Stonewall, we think about attacks, hate crimes, they happen all the time, especially with a burgeoning, growing trans community, and we’ve seen unprecedented violence against members of the trans community. It makes me afraid, it just opens up so many different avenues for ignorance and violence.”
Regardless of their stance on this controversial topic, it is evident that both students and faculty remain curious to see how the university will respond.
“I’d like to see a coherent, strong response from UMKC to protect faculty and students,” a UMKC English professor said. “So it seems as if, again, there needs to be restated guidelines, new policies about guns on campus.”