During my junior year of college, we had a SWAT team respond to an incident and shut down the campus Student Center.
Proceeding with caution and with the Virginia Tech shooting still in mind, we headed to the building to find out that it, thankfully, was not as major of an event as we had assumed. Apparently while being their usual, stupid selves, some underclassmen were screwing around in the cafeteria and one pulled out an air gun.
There was no orange cap on it or anything to distinguish the air gun from a real pistol, so another student called it in to police. The tactical unit, rifles in hand, responded and determined the level of threat was relatively low.
But also at this time, the bill allowing concealed carry on college campuses was in the Texas Legislature. We used the opportunity to write an editorial, praising campus security while also imagining what the situation would have been like if some student with a real handgun had decided to take action.
The worst case, yet still very real, scenario is that a student would have shot this guy with a toy gun out of fear for his life. Granted, the guy with the toy gun was being very foolish, especially considering the sensitivity of the matter.
But was that something to die over?
Later we spoke to the campus police's public information officer who expressed similar concerns. He simply said that when police respond to an incident, they treat any person with a firearm as a threat.
It was a straight-forward, common-sense way of viewing a fairly divisive issue. The same type solutions exist for what is, beyond any doubt, a serious issue with guns in the United States.
The issue is not that guns exist, though the language of gun control advocates, mostly Democrats, would suggest as much. Terms like "get guns off of the streets," or calling opponents "gun nuts" only damages the likelihood of any compromise.
On the flip side, common sense language is lost in the cries of government intrusion and an absurd paranoia that only seems to show when anyone even mentions the words "gun" and "control" in the same breath. Make no mistake, the National Rifle Association is very happy to watch this paranoia grow since it means more money is poured into gun sales.
But just as one, super-blue bleeding heart liberal does not represent the entire gun control bloc, the NRA does not represent all gun owners. A Quinnipiac University poll in 2014 showed more than 90 percent of Americans support a system of universal background checks for gun ownership in the U.S., something the NRA is against.
Many of my friends who own guns feel it was too easy for them to obtain the weapon. Even my mother, a very dedicated conservative, thinks there should have been a little more of a process to obtain her handgun.
In essence, law abiding citizens, those that make up most of the gun-owning population, are perfectly fine with adding a few more checks and balances. It's like the majority of people who go through the airport; they're OK with stringent security measures if it means keeping some bad people from being on their plane.
Universal background checks and a limit on magazine capacity for certain weapons are all the Obama administration has offered in terms of gun law reform. So, no, in fact, no one is coming to take your gun from under your pillow.
Actually, there has been absolutely zero serious language about taking guns from law abiding citizens. Anyone serious about gun control is interested in measures that ensure good people can still get guns and hinder bad people from doing the same.
The question then becomes how strict are the background checks? Do we include history of mental health issues? I would think yes, but that's just part of the discussion.
Would background checks have prevented the man who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon last week? Maybe yes, maybe no; there is no way of knowing that right now, just like there is no way of knowing that a single person with a handgun in that classroom would have stopped the whole thing.
But moving forward, using common sense steps can, at the very least, limit the amount of times we, once again, hear about a lone gunman shooting several innocent people in another national tragedy.
I just hope we can all stop yelling at each other long enough to find out that we actually all agree.