The other Surge
If you think the word "Surge" applies only to Iraq, you're wrong. KTSP.com reports:
"The number of people coming to colleges who’ve had psychiatric treatment has increased tremendously," said Dr. Gerald Kay, a psychiatry professor at Wright State University and chair of the American Psychiatric Association committee on college mental health. ...
Reasons for the surge include the Americans with Disabilities Act, which gives mentally ill students the right to be at college, and increasingly sophisticated medications which enable them to function better than in the past. Recent surveys and studies underscore the scope of the increase.
A survey last year by the American College Health Association found that 8.5 percent of students had seriously considered suicide, and 15 percent were diagnosed for depression, up from 10 percent in 2000. The Anxiety Disorders Association of America found that 13 percent of students at major universities and 25 percent at liberal arts colleges are using campus mental health services.
So maybe Eugene Volkh is merely adapting to the changing times when he argues that qualified professors should not be prevented from carrying weapons to school.
Now of course if arming the five people for the extremely rare situation when they'll need to stop a madman will end up causing more harm than good in the much more common situations when there's no madman around, that might be a bad tradeoff. That is the argument I've heard against letting students possess weapons on-campus: They're young, they drink a lot, they'll start shooting when they get into a hot argument in class or at a debate. I'm not sure that's right, but let's say it is.
What, though, is the argument against allowing professors and other university staff to possess weapons, if they choose? (Assume the professors lack criminal records, and assume they go through whatever testing and modest training is required to get a concealed carry permit, or perhaps even some extra training.) One argument is that it's just dangerous for law-abiding citizens to have weapons, because they'll start shooting over arguments or fender-benders. But that's precisely the argument that has been rejected by the 38 states that allow any law-abiding citizen to get a concealed carry license (or, in 2 of the 38 states, to carry without a license). What's more, as I understand it, people who get such licenses have in fact almost never committed unjustified homicide or attempted homicide (or even lesser crimes) using their guns. Whatever the pluses or minuses of shall-issue, the "licenseholders will start shootouts over petty slights" theory has not been borne out.
But then flooding schools with people with mental problems and then arming professors seems like a hell of a way to run a railroad. Somewhere we have stumbled over a contradiction in our attitudes to modern life: that in pursuing our most altruistic instincts we have also opened the door to dangers against which we must defend ourselves. When we come forward with an open hand we are at our most vulnerable. Open societies are places of great possibility, for both good and evil.