Bullet Points: ‘There really are no costs’ to campus carry, says graduate
Jake Smith graduated in May with a PhD in economics. While at UH, he followed a Facebook group called the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, UH Chapter, which is administered to support the pro–campus carry crowd.
For the first installment of Bullet Points, a series on campus carry that will come out every Wednesday, Smith sat down with The Cougar this week to talk about why he thinks guns might be a good idea on university grounds.
The Cougar: Why do you believe that guns should be allowed on campus?
“If you want to look at the AR-15 specifically, it’s great for hog hunting, when you need really quick follow-up shots. It’s great for predator or small-game hunting, because it actually doesn’t fire a very powerful round.”
—Jake Smith, economics alumnus
Jake Smith: Being an economist, I kind of see it from a cost-benefit perspective. There really are no costs to allowing people who already have concealed carry permits to carry on campus, but the benefits could be large. I’m not saying they will be large, but they could be — especially in a campus like University of Houston, which is in kind of a rough area, it has kind of a history of violence and assault, and it’s a commuter campus.
On the other side, the perception is that we say that everybody should have guns all the time. You get these arguments that 18-year-old kids are going to be having them in frat parties, in dorms. That’s absolutely not true. What we’re saying is, if you already have a concealed carry license, and you can carry everywhere else in society, then why shouldn’t you be allowed to carry on campus as well?
TC: What is your interpretation of the Second Amendment?
JS: No doubt in my mind, it wasn’t enshrined for hunting. It wasn’t enshrined for sport shooting. It was enshrined for self-defense from individuals as well as from the government, should that ever happen. I don’t want to sound like a nut, but at the time, the British government went around confiscating guns because they knew that there was a revolution that was fomenting and there was a rising tide of anti-imperialism. And so they wanted to confiscate guns.
So when people say you don’t need this or that for hunting or you don’t need to carry a gun around in front of you in society — well, the whole point of the Second Amendment was to protect your right to do that.
TC: Where might you carry your pistol?
JS: A big problem I have is I’ve worked on college campuses for the last 11 years, so I was prohibited from carrying. That’s what a lot of people run into. Otherwise, they carry their pistol everywhere else — when they go to the movie theater, when they go to the grocery store, when they go to the park. But then when they go to work or school, they have to leave it behind. So I carry it sporadically, I’m not as disciplined about it as some other people. Some people it’s every day, like grabbing their wallet or grabbing their cell phone.
TC: Do you think President Barack Obama wants to take your guns away?
JS: No, I think that’s an extreme on the other side, too. I think, certainly, there are a lot of people who would like to see less guns in society and if they could take your guns away, they would try to.
There’s a lot of fear on both sides. There’s fear on the left, with their blown-up idea that it’s going to be the Wild West again. There’s fear on the right — Obama’s trying to take your guns away. I don’t think that’s right.
They definitely would like to limit certain styles of firearms. For me, I’m watchful of it. It’s not going to happen at the federal level, but you always have to be vigilant because there are people out there who would like to take your guns away.
TC: What’s your opinion on the controversial assault rifle, the AR-15?
JS: For me, a firearm, a gun, is just a tool. And you have to have different tools for different jobs. For instance, I have a pistol. It’s a small pistol — doesn’t carry very many rounds — and that’s my carry tool.
I have a big, 32-inch, over-under shotgun. That’s not going to do me very well for self-defense, but it’s great for when I go skeet shooting. An AR-15 is just another one of those tools that can be great for self-defense or hunting.
There’s a great difference between automatic and semi-automatic. Semi-automatic just means with one pull of the trigger, one bullet comes out. Automatic means you hold it down, bullets keep flying out. The standard, right now, the most common weapons out there, are semi-automatic. That’s just where the technology is. So when people say they want to ban semi-automatic weapons, they want to ban like 80, 90 percent of the market, which is completely ridiculous. It really portrays an ignorance of firearms and firearm technology.
If you want to look at the AR-15 specifically, it’s great for hog hunting, when you need really quick follow-up shots. It’s great for predator or small-game hunting, because it actually doesn’t fire a very powerful round.
And my personal belief is that whatever the police have, citizens should be able to have. And that’s kind of where I draw the line. People always try to blow up the argument, saying, “Oh, you want nuclear weapons,” but my line is whatever the police are allowed to have and use against us, we should be allowed to have and use against them if ever something were to happen.
TC: There are a ton of shootings in the United States. How do we solve that issue?
JS: My take is not a very popular one. Again, I’m looking at this from an economist’s perspective. Your probability of dying in a mass shooting event is infinitesimal. It’s not going to happen. From the Congressional Research Service, there are four or five mass shooting events a year that kill about 150 to 200 people. In a country of 350 million people, it’s infinitesimal.
And if you want to live in a free society, if you don’t just want to lock everyone up and only give some people some freedom, there are going to be some risks that are going to run with that.
Again, I look at it as a cost-benefit. If you ban assault weapons, those same people are just going to find other tools. I don’t ever think you can solve it — it’s just a part of life — but if you want to narrow in on it, you’ve got to look at the common thread. What is the common thread? Mental illness. But again, in a country of 350 million people, there are going to be a few people who fall through the cracks.
You can take solace in the fact that your probability of being a victim of one of those events is tiny. I mean, cars kill 100 times as many people as AR-15s. We accept risk in our everyday life. I think the left really focuses in on one kind of risk. Same thing on the right. The right likes to focus in on terrorism of any kind. Again, your probability of dying in a terrorist attack is so infinitesimally small, it doesn’t really justify what they’re trying to do. And I see the same thing on the left. Your probability of dying in a mass shooting event or being killed by an AR-15 is so tiny, it doesn’t really justify what they’re trying to do.
TC: Are you afraid that adding guns to the stress of a college environment is a harmful idea?
JS: College for undergrads and graduates can be extremely stressful. There are tragic stories of people falling into depression and committing suicide.
But the probability that someone already had a CHL, then college made them maniacal or suicidal, and then if somehow they weren’t able to have the gun and that would have prevented them from committing suicide — that probability is so tiny.
TC: Last year, someone in the faculty senate leaked a slide in which the University told faculty members to not “go there,” meaning they should avoid broaching topics that might anger students with guns. How do you feel about this?
JS: I find that embarrassing and ironic. As a member of the graduate community of UH, I’m embarrassed by it because I feel that fear is completely irrational and unfounded, especially when professors are supposed to be the sober, level-headed, rational thinkers they are. When you see a professor expressing those kind of irrational, unfounded fears, it reflects badly on the UH community.
The big argument against campus carry is that it will lead to censorship. It’ll lead professors to be fearful that they can’t broach certain subjects. And here they are, imposing that censorship onto themselves before the law is even passed. So it’s rather ironic, right? Nobody’s forcing you. Nobody’s pointing a gun at you and telling you, “No, you can’t talk about that.” They’re imposing it onto themselves.