As the flurry of text alerts sent to student cell phones and email accounts in the early morning hours of Saturday made apparent, the combination of alcohol and hot-headed students can lead to unfortunate violence. The first weekend of the spring semester featured a high-profile brawl in which one UNH student was stabbed and another was hit over the head with a blunt object.
Coincidentally, UNH officials spent Thursday in Concord arguing against a bill currently before the New Hampshire Senate that would add guns to the mix, too.
House Bill 334, which passed the New Hampshire House of Representatives earlier this month, would allow firearms on all public property, including public universities such as UNH. Up until now, university officials have been able to set their own firearm policies, and firearms are prohibited on the UNH campus.
It should remain that way.
The juxtaposition of lawmakers arguing in favor of guns on the UNH campus hours before a violent crime occurred isn't the only episode of bad timing being the best argument against this bill.
In December, two New Hampshire residents said they planned to appear on the Plymouth State University campus touting firearms to protest the campus' ban. The day before their planned protest, a gunman killed two people on the Virginia Tech campus. Perhaps in light of that, the two left their guns behind and showed up on Dec. 9 to argue their case with words only.
That case ultimately fails, however. It is not in anyone's best interest to have the state determine the firearms policy for its universities. Those universities are far more in tune with the nature of their campus community and can make a more informed decision. At UNH, which has had multiple episodes of on-campus violent crime over the past few years, we encourage the administration to maintain a ban on guns on campus.
There are very few people who are actively interested in this bill. Media coverage of the bill has included interviews with students at other campuses who are gun owners and have said it never would have occurred to them to bring a firearm to campus.
The entire affair has the feel of a few lawmakers taking up an unimportant cause of an extreme minority in order to appeal to their base. Even so, 61 Republicans joined with Democrats to vote against the bill (it passed the house by a vote of 180-144).
It will not benefit this campus to have Concord making the decision about whether firearms are allowed at UNH. That is a decision best left to college administrations, and we believe the current ban is in students' best interest.
While this student body is capable of achieving great things, there is no denying the fact that college years are violatile for many people, and making guns easily available in a scene where alcohol and drugs are a constant factor isn't a good idea.
The governor has pledged to veto the bill if it makes it through the senate. We hope that the Senate will stop the bill in its tracks.