SUNY Adirondack’s officials have decided to spend more than $100,000 on stuff the college does not need.
This stuff includes body armor, guns, Tasers and body cameras for its campus officers. The decision to arm and armor officers comes after research was done by Anne Marie Somma, vice president for administrative services, and a presentation was made to trustees.
Somma talked about what officers had recommended, what other colleges have done and which weapons are considered most effective.
What she didn’t talk about was the need for campus officers to wear bulletproof vests and carry lethal weapons.
She didn’t bring up any history of violent crimes committed on campus, when a responding officer would have had use for a gun.
She didn’t talk about the likelihood of an armed intruder or active shooter on a small college campus like SUNY Adirondack’s.
The main justification for arming the officers appears to be an unscientific survey done of the college community. Even if this meaningless survey had been valid, it would have been a poor tool for making this decision.
The percentage of students and teachers who want campus officers to carry guns is irrelevant.
It’s the need for the guns that matters. Are campus officers likely to encounter situations when they will need a gun?
No, they’re not. It’s very unlikely.
But it’s telling that this decision was made on the basis of impressions and popular opinion. That’s the way it is with guns in America. They have become the default solution to any worry about the possibility of danger.
Guns are not magic wands, but we see them that way. Wave the magic gun in the air and you will get the safety and security you desire.
Listen to what Somma said in her presentation to the college trustees: “It is one method of thinking that drawing a weapon itself is enough to get someone to comply.”
Just wave the magic gun and trouble evaporates.
The bitter irony is that the proliferation of guns throughout American society has made us all less safe. Toddlers playing with their parents’ guns kill themselves or their siblings. Spouses kill each other in moments of rage. Fearful homeowners shoot people who are not intruders. Road rage degenerates into murder. People whose minds and souls are twisted obtain machines that allow them to kill scores of human beings in a matter of minutes, and they do it.
The other thought that guides decisions like the one at SUNY Adirondack is that they have no downside. Even if the guns are never used, under this way of thinking, they’re worth the money as a precaution, like fire extinguishers.
But the guns have a downside — the possibility an officer will make a mistake and commit an unjustified shooting. This happens, as anyone knows who watches the news.
Officers who patrol dangerous neighborhoods, where people carry guns and use them in crimes, need to be armed themselves. But officers who patrol bucolic campuses where very little crime and even less violence occurs —campuses like SUNY Adirondack’s — don’t need the capacity to kill.
Will Doolittle is projects editor at The Post-Star. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on his blog, I think not, and on Twitter at @trafficstatic.