Government & Politics

Are guns on campus OK? Ask the students and cops on northshore

When not campaigning for other offices or switching parties, state Rep. Ernest Wooton, I-Belle Chasse, has distinguished himself by leading the effort to allow concealed firearms on Louisiana college campuses. In three of the past four years he has sponsored bills to let qualified students and faculty carry permitted weapons at public universities. Though the National Rifle Association supported Wooton’s initiative, it went nowhere in the Legislature.

I suppose if Wooton had his way, Louisiana gun stores would be holding back-to-school sales right about now. Perhaps even LSU would see an opportunity to get a slice of the action, like it’s doing with beer sales, and market its own brand of semi-automatic pistols.

Truly, if more guns make a campus safer, then why not extend the measure to courthouses, churches and high schools? Return fire, Your Honor! Blast them to kingdom come, reverend! Teach them a lesson they won’t forget, Mr. Kotter!

But if authorities hadn’t recently stopped a school shooting plot on the North Shore, it’s likely Wooton’s proposals would be part of a political discussion of a tradgedy:

Three Lakeshore students spent the past several weeks plotting a shooting spree for the first day of school that would have targeted at least one student and a faculty member, authorities said Friday.

The shooting plot, which the boys allegedly expected to conclude with their own suicides, was foiled by St. Tammany Parish sheriff’s deputies and school officials. The three teens who called their group “Day Zero” then were arrested and booked with conspiracy to commit terrorism.

Few details have been released about the alleged Mandeville-area terrorists, other that they were 15-year-old males who admitted to planning “an incredible and devastating attack on the school,” Sheriff Jack Strain said.

I’m inclined to say we should err on the side of beefed up security that prevents guns in schools rather than hoping armed faculty will deter potential shootings, or respond to them with lethal force. Plus, as we saw recently at the airport, accidents do happen; even among experienced, law-abiding firearms owners.

Still, I’ve come to see more grey in this issue than I did previously. For example, Paw Paw would counter that criminals don’t abide by laws or university policies, and that I’d want a firearm (or someone else to have one) if I was in a crowded lecture hall when a nutcase began shooting students. And he’s right, I would.

As for the group calling themselves Day Zero, l have to say, I’m not too keen on it. Declarations of Day Zero (much less “Year Zero,” for that matter) have become a giant red flag in my book. Recall that recovery czar Ed Blakely used the rhetorical device when he came to town in 2007, saying “[If] we consider Day Zero to be January 8, the day I came, then we are on the right track.” I think we all remember how that didn’t turn out.

Applause to the Lakeshore students who caught wind of the Day Zero group and reported them to school officials in time for the authorities to take action. Their tip likely saved many lives.

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