The Magical Mystical Handgun:

It looks like a UCLA Police Department officer, who happens to have a law degree, is going to be teaching a class here at the law school on Legal Issues in Policing. He's already on campus for his normal patrols, so he'll just pop by for an hour in the middle of his day a couple of days a week. Should be pretty educational for our students.

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What did you think when you read that item? (I should note it's a thought experiment, and not a real story, though in principle such a thing would be quite possible.) You might have thought about the teacher's credentials, or the merits of the class, or even about the social divides between police officers and academics. But I strongly suspect you didn't think the following: "Wait, is he going to be lecturing with his gun on his person? Won't this interfere with class dynamics? Plus, isn't it true that 'Schools and guns do not mix. Period.'?"

Now it is possible that having a uniformed police officer teach a class may interfere with class dynamics. There may well be some social divides between police officers and lawyers and law students, even if the police officer is known to have a J.D. Some radically antiauthoritarian students might be put off by having a police officer in class (though in my experience law students are generally not that antiauthoritarian). Some students might have the habit of being on their guard around police officers, because in the past they've generally seen police officers while doing something that might get them in some (usually minor) legal trouble — driving, engaging in underage drinking, littering gum, or what have you. Some students who are deeply swayed by authority might be extra bashful in class.

But none of this, I think, would stem from the officer's even visibly wearing a handgun. If the officer were to become a familiar face, and wear street clothes rather than a uniform, I think these factors would largely go away. But even if these factors remained, it would be they, not the officer's likely possession of a handgun (even if he carries it openly, but especially if he carries it concealed), that throw off class discussions.

Yet why then does Prof. Ralph Luker (History News Network) write, "Some absurd reactions to the Virginia Tech murders: ... Some solutions to campus terrorism: Eugene Volokh says "Arm the teachers!" Aeon J. Skoble says "Arm the students!" [EV: I bracket the arming the students question for reasons I note here.] Both great ideas for improving classroom dynamics. Do you understand why I prefer to read Chris Bray, Tim Burke, and Nathanael Robinson?"

If a police officer acting as an adjunct professor can teach a class while armed without throwing off "classroom dynamics," why wouldn't a full-time professor be able to do the same? Is it that somehow police officers are so much more trustworthy than ordinary professors? Would students think of a normal professor, "if I say something I dislike, the teacher will take a shot at me," given that I doubt they'd think this of police officers?

I'm sure there are some unstable professors, but there are also some unstable police officers; there is a risk of mental trouble, alcoholism, and the like in any profession. But I know of zero evidence that for those professors who are likely to seek and get concealed carry permits, the risk of misbehavior is materially greater than for police officers. Nor do I think that students would perceive such a risk; sure, we like to talk about "those crazy professors," but I doubt that students really would be worried enough about the risk that "classroom dynamics" would be thrown off.

Nor do I see students worrying about the professor more than the police officer in the classroom because they expect that the professor isn't as well-trained at gun use. Setting aside the crazy teacher — whether professor or police officer — the professor's training would only come into play only in the very unlikely scenario of a madman's started shooting into the classroom. I doubt students would much focus on that scenario, and, if they did, I'd hope that they'd prefer to have an armed good guy in the classroom, even if he isn't optimally trained.

So what is it about the possible presence of a magical mystical handgun on a professor's person that would ruin classroom dynamics? Conversely, what is it about the police officer's magical mystical police officer status that would prevent classroom dynamics from being ruined?

There is, I think, no such magical force. An armed professor — whether full-time professor, on-duty police officer, on-duty FBI or BATF agent, on-duty soldier [UPDATE: e.g., military police officer, or soldier who is required to remain armed, as in Israel], on-duty secret service agent, or whoever else — can teach just as well (or as poorly) as an unarmed professor. The students will worry about all the things that throw off classroom dynamics today (what if I embarrass myself in front of classmates? what if I look like too much of an eager beaver? what if the professor disagrees with my politics and embarrasses me? lord, I drank too much last night), and not at all about the professor's being armed.