Campus carry is result of student voter apathy

David Bordelon

In the wake of campus carry protests, counter-protests, forum discussions that no one attends, resigning professors and soon-to-be dildo displays of dissent, the root of the problem preceding all the hype is student voter apathy.

Students are good at many forms of civic engagement. Volunteering is one form college students excel in, and, as seen in recent campus carry events, protests serve as an easy way for students to voice their outrage in public. So why is voting — the most important form of civic engagement — neglected?

Voter turnout in America is abysmal. Even worse is student voter turnout — in the 2012 elections only 38 percent of people aged 18 to 29 voted in the presidential election. And that was for a well-publicized presidential election. For state elections and midterm elections, the turnout is much worse. The 2010 midterm elections brought only 21 percent of the 18-to-24-year-old demographic.

A significant number of student vocalized their opposition to SB 11, or campus carry, when it was being debated in the Texas Legislature. A petition to repeal the law already has over 6,000 signatures, and over 600 professors have signed a petition opposing guns in their classrooms. Yet, this opposition came after the passage of the bill. So where was this engagement before the bill passed?
When state legislatures are confronted with a demographic that effectively has no power to displace them, such as students who rarely vote, there is no need to listen to them. The game of American politics strongly relies on reelectability. In the case of campus carry, no politician needs to worry about students coming together and voting him out of the legislature, because student voter turnout shows that students are not a substantial part of the electorate.

Government professor Bryan Jones said voter turnout is the lowest it has been in America since the ’40s. He suspects low voter turnout rates are due to negativity toward the government, which “leaves the field of politics to the virulently involved.” Those not heavily involved are left with whatever the government, influenced by radical voters, offers them. Voting is the only way to counteract this phenomenon in Jones’ mind.

“When you don’t vote, you become a passive subject rather than a citizen,” Jones said. “You watch the politicians act, and you don’t act, and you just get the choices the politicians offer you.”

The Texas Legislature offered students concealed guns on campus and left it at that. Students standing up for what they believe in is admirable, but they must first look inward and ask whether they helped pass the bill by not voting. We can buck the trend and show politicians we will not passively accept what they offer by voting against them, not by strapping plastic sex toys to our backpacks.

David Bordelon is a philosophy sophomore. Follow Bordelon on Twitter @davbord.