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Student columnist arouses anger of gun rights supporters

Ready, aim, threaten!

Danielle Ramirez is a bright, pretty 20-year-old who has managed with a few hundred words to arouse gun advocates to a degree of unified rage not unlike the loathing Jane Fonda might receive sauntering into a meeting of the VFW.

Fonda never has been forgiven for her “peace mission” to Hanoi during the Vietnam War, even though we’ve forgiven every enemy in every conflict since an army of British redcoats burned Washington, D.C., 200 years ago.

And now Ramirez, a fourth-year student at UC Davis, has earned the wrath of those who believe that the presence of guns anywhere is, by God, a right guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. (At least that’s what they’ve been told by the people who sell guns for a living.)

Ramirez earned their ire by writing a column in the school newspaper challenging the idea that students be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus, which has been under consideration by a dozen states after last February’s deadly attack at Northern Illinois University.

Bad idea.

College students are at an age of emotional unpredictability and can respond with tears and rage over broken love affairs, damaged egos or lousy grades.

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Being bullied can turn a kid into a cowboy with blood on his mind.

Ramirez, whose family lives in L.A., writes for the university’s weekday California Aggie, one of the oldest campus newspapers in the state.

She’s been a columnist for only a few months and has already been awash in e-mails from as far away as Colorado that seem vaguely threatening.

The anti-gun column emerged in response to posters distributed by a group that calls itself Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. Opposed to firearms generally and to campus weapons particularly, Ramirez felt like ripping the posters off the walls, but instead turned to her computer and to the column she calls “And Then I Found Five Dollars.” It’s a throwaway line that completes a story with no point, which wasn’t the case here.

The column was a satirical review that listed the advantages of carrying weapons on campus, among them their use as a method of dealing with the overpopulation of squirrels: “We have resorted to researching squirrel birth control to bring the numbers down,” Ramirez wrote. “Well, if students were allowed to carry weapons -- hasta la vista, rodent infestation.”

She suggested with wicked irony that the presence of guns would also increase civility among students, causing bicyclists, for instance, to think twice before cutting off another biker and discourage nerds from asking “totally irrelevant” questions in class.

There would be, she added, a new birth of (here she crosses out the word fear) compassion.

Then: “I really feel we should give concealed carry a try. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of students walking around school with automatic weapons stashed in their backpacks. What’s the worst that could happen?”

She probably could have gotten by with the satire. Rabid gun owners, being people of limited perception, would no doubt nod and agree that shooting squirrels would be an effective way to eliminate the infestation, and civility would certainly increase if you knew that you might be gunned down for being rude.

But it was the ending of her column that even gun nuts understood, a self-written explanation in the third person: “DANIELLE RAMIREZ is actually of the belief that anyone feeling the burning desire to carry pocket sized killing machines to lecture is off their rocker.”

More than 30 e-mails followed with lines like “I hope you get into a situation that causes you to realize there are times when the ONLY tool that will do what you need to protect yourself is a firearm.”

Ramirez’s mother, Eileen, took this and other notes as threats and feared for her daughter’s safety.

She wrote me: “My question is how often do people who write hate mail follow up on what they have written?”

Ramirez herself says that if there’s reason again to state her views on guns in the halls of academia -- “I wish they were banned everywhere in America” -- she will do so.

She responds to her mother’s concerns with “I’m not afraid.”

Most gun owners, despite their exaggerated sense of entitlement, probably aren’t out to kill anyone. Like James Thurber’s Walter Mitty, they imagine themselves in a heroic stance against an army of evil.

Guns blazing, they turn in a glorious moment of vindication and shout at the timid liberals who would deny them firearms, “I told you we’d need them!”

I advised Ramirez to do her job as her conscience dictates and let fear be the possession of those who would rather shoot than evolve.

--

almtz13@aol.com


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