Wesleyan is very fortunate to have many faculty members who connect their deep academic specializations with urgent contemporary issues. The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life is the most visible sign of the University’s commitment in this regard. Gun violence is certainly a national problem that shatters lives and communities with sickening regularity. Before the latest school shooting in Oregon, Jennifer Tucker (history, science in society, feminist, gender and sexuality studies) had written a strong opinion piece that contextualized debates about guns. In an op-ed picked up by several newspapers, Prof. Tucker has argued that “one fact stands out: Guns might not kill people, but guns get people killed.” She goes on to say that “it would be great to see gun owners get more involved in arguing for basic limits on the proliferation of firearms that would help reduce the numbers of deaths and casualties of firearm-related violence in America today. One thing they should do is familiarize themselves with the true history of the American frontier, where gun restrictions were seen as conducive to a healthy nation.” She has expanded on this argument in a WNPR interview.
Yesterday, Prof. Tucker joined with health sciences and epidemiology professor Matthew Miller in writing an opinion piece for the Boston Globe that underscores the public health dimension of America’s infatuation with unregulated gun trafficking. They conclude that “firearm violence is a public health crisis no less serious than those associated with automobiles. Our experience with autos and pollution shows that, along with other measures, sensible gun regulations could save lives.”
The massacre at Umpqua Community College is another reminder just how catastrophic the combination of mental illness and access to deadly weapons can be. Education can not exist in a context of deadly threats. Civil society, itself, depends on the regulation of the mechanisms of violence.
Thank you, Jennifer Tucker, for combining history, engagement and civic responsibility in your ongoing work. I only wish it was less urgent!