Guns at Gonzaga
Robert Geroux November 16, 2013 - 10:19pm
At approximately 10:15 pm on October 24, a Gonzaga University undergraduate answered a knock at the door of his off-campus apartment, and was faced with what he called a “homeless man” who asked for money. The man’s behavior was perceived as threatening, and so the student called for his roommate, who appeared with a loaded and drawn pistol, which he then leveled at the man. The “homeless man” fled and was apparently arrested later. After the incident, the students contacted Spokane police and campus security. Officers from campus security entered the apartment and confiscated the handgun as well as a hunting weapon. The young men were then placed on probation, since Gonzaga regulations forbid weapons on campus premises.
Those are some of the facts of the case. In a letter to the Gonzaga Bulletin (http://www.gonzagabulletin.com/opinion/article_e70d34a0-4cdc-11e3-a194-0...), Professor of Religious Studies Fr. Patrick Hartin praised the students for their conduct, and wondered whether GU hadn’t turned from a wonderland into “Dante’s Hell” because of the treatment of these young men. He followed up by saying “In the Catholic tradition, to which I ascribe, every person has a right to defend him or herself and to use appropriate means to save their lives.” Even before Hartin’s letter, college administrators had decided to reexamine campus policy on firearm possession.
Is there something specific about the Jesuit or Catholic mission of the college that should encourage or discourage a change in policy? Is this a case of self-defense? Does the Catholic tradition support the use of lethal force, as Fr. Hartin asserts? My understanding – from a blog post and discussion months back – is that at least some scholars in the just war tradition would suggest otherwise. They argue that while scripture tells us to “turn the other cheek,” one is obligated to act aggressively in the defense of innocent others.
I've thought a lot about this case. I'm interested in hearing what you have to say.
About the Author
Robert Geroux is a political theorist and assistant professor of political science at DePauw University.