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A law that allows loaded guns into national parks and wildlife refuges across the country went into effect Monday. Under the provisions of this law, it will now be legal for licensed gun owners to carry guns for private use into preserves like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and any other parks in states where the possession and carrying of firearms is allowed.

At a time when the debate surrounding the large-scale proliferation of firearms seems to be shifting in favor of its advocates, it is pertinent to examine numbers and revisit recent events in a bid to place this development in context.

The United States has the highest number of firearms in civilian hands of any country in the world, with an estimated 35 to 50 percent of the world’s civilian firepower, according to a 2007 report by Small Arms Survey, a project of the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. More than half of the 8 million small arms manufactured annually worldwide are sold here, and it is hardly surprising that we boast a world-beating average of 83 to 97 guns per 100 people, according to the report.

Is this exponential explosion in the application of the right to bear arms bearing fruit in the form of additional safety? If events over the past decade are any indicator, no positive response seems forthcoming. Not a month passes without news of at least one major shooting incident, and, year after year, we bear witness to tragic events like those that unfolded at Columbine and Virginia Tech.

ASU is no stranger to the specter of gun violence; just last semester, a 59-year-old graduate student committed suicide in the College of Design building, forcing a shutdown of that building, the activation of ASU’s emergency alert system and the re-opening of the “guns on campus” debate that has been addressed from the Arizona Board of Regents to the Arizona Legislature.

Gun crimes in any setting are horrific. However, crimes committed on the grounds of an academic institution take on an almost macabre air because of the serene atmosphere associated with such places. The recent shooting at the University of Alabama at Huntsville was yet another stark reminder that guns cannot discriminate amongst their victims; neither can they discern the intentions of those who wield them. This is repeated so often that it may as well be a cliché. Though it is a human who pulls the trigger, there is no violent crime without the proverbial smoking gun.

National parks and preserves, like our educational institutions, are places that enshrine the ideals of knowledge and tranquility — rare gifts that we are beholden to preserve as a utopian ideal for the future. Do we want to be remembered as the generation that put guns into paradise?

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