TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — With the unfortunate prevalence of school shootings grabbing headlines across the country, voters in Alabama are desperate for a way to protect their children. Among these concerned citizens is State Rep. Mack Butler, the proponent of the failed Bill 12 in the Alabama House of Representatives. Bill 12, a rejected proposed amendment to the state constitution, would have allowed for students at state college and university campuses to openly carry firearms.
Butler expressed his desire to fortify Alabama campuses for the possibility of an active shooter. He believes that allowing open carry on campus would best prevent school shootings similar to the the likes of the killings at Virginia Tech and other institutions of higher learning.
“The point is for the bad guy to know that someone in there is possibly armed,” he explained. “If you look at all these school shooters, they seek out the gun-free zones.”
Alabama allows colleges and universities to independently decide their gun control policies. Currently, all state-controlled campuses do not allow open carry.
Butler did not think Alabamians’ right to openly carry a firearm under state law should be revoked once they step foot on campus.
“Across the street at a grocery store you could be armed, and I don’t think your Second Amendment rights should be taken away just by crossing the street,” he reasoned. “Our founders did not want our government to outgun us. The Second Amendment … has everything to do with self-preservation.”
Though Bill 12 did not garner enough support in the House to pass, many people on campus say they would support its implementation. Christopher Gravlee, an employee at The University of Alabama, explains that he, too, thinks that open carry on campus would prevent a school shooting.
“All you need is just a few people, just for people to know that a few people in the building is carrying a weapon to deter you from going in there,” he reasons. “Because nobody’s gonna attack someone where they are gonna get resistance, they want something that is fragile and is open.”
Rep. Butler also anticipates that open carry on campus would help protect women who could be victims of sexual assault, even mentioning that he sleeps better at night knowing that his own daughter is armed.
“Rape is a big issue [on campus],” admits Butler. “The great equalizer is pulling out the weapon. I found all kind of incidents of violent attack and rape [that were prevented] because a woman pulled a weapon.”
However, Caroline Surratt, a rising senior at UA, does not think that the implementation of the bill would have the impact that Butler predicts.
“I don’t know very many females who are even … interested in bearing arms personally. I kind of wonder if even the intent is for, you know, young women to be more safe on campus, if that is actually the audience it would affect.”
Ryan Cleghron, another student at UA, agrees that the implementation of Bill 12 could be problematic.
“Maybe there would be like interpersonal issues, like people would, I don’t know, start problems with people who are carrying guns because they don’t like it, or people with guns [would use] them for intimidation,” he explains. “I don’t know if anybody would be shot — I don’t know if it would elevate to that level, you know — but I think it is overall a good idea to just not allow [open carry on campus].”
Cleghorn is not alone in fearing what would happen if young adults, many of whom might still be teenagers, were given permission to carry a firearm around a college campus.
Even Rep. Butler admits,“The thing everyone worries about is drunken 18 year olds walking around with guns.”
Butler recognizes this fear as valid, and acknowledges that there would have to be very careful parameters if this policy were implemented. Those parameters would include extensive background checks and mandatory gun handling classes for anyone choosing to take advantage of the law. Butler is even willing to modify the bill so that only the faculty would be allowed to open carry. However, this potential change to the bill may never see the light of day — Butler has admitted that he won’t bring the bill back to the Alabama House next year unless he sees more support among his fellow representatives.
Though the amendment may not be proposed again by Butler in the near future, it remains a microcosm of gun control disagreements across America. Butler, a self-acclaimed pro-gun politician, justifies Bill 12 with the old adage that “an armed society is a polite society.” But his biggest obstacle in getting the bill passed lies in this reality: not everyone in Alabama wants to be forced to be polite by the firearms of their ever-present neighbors.