The College Years My years at UCLA were associated with a substantial broadening of my knowledge base on gun control. During this period, I learned more about gun control laws (primarily in CA), developed a knowledge base on the rationale and ethics of gun control, and learned (finally) about the Second Amendment to the Constitution. I will discuss each of these factors below, but before doing so, let me sidetrack for a moment to discuss two key aspects of college life that will bear relevance later. First, and perhaps not surprisingly, colleges tend to be characterized by a politically liberal climate. UCLA was an excellent example of a campus lying at the far side of the spectrum: the campus was highly charged politically, with student groups representing a hodge-podge of leftist political causes (e.g., ethnic activism, Marxist social policies). Second, while colleges may be located physically within otherwise conservative communities, the campus can often be radically opposed to the trends that dominate those communities. UCLA was slightly different in this respect, since it was an academic institution with a politically liberal climate embedded within a city generally characterized as a politically liberal one. (Keep in mind, these are generalizations and reflect the overall climate, not the views of each resident of the campus or Los Angeles.) The result was the development of an intellectual echo chamber: (1) in which students learned the politico-cultural foundations of the university early, via freshman workshops and membership in student groups; (2) where a mass of popular opinion was formed that reinforced the liberal views of the faculty; and (3) where students utilized the authority of the professoriate to validate the liberal worldview they had been taught. This, then, is the world that I entered in the early 1990’s. The UCLA campus then was nothing short of revolutionary: hunger strikes and mass protests by Chicano activists, anti-war vigils (against Desert Storm), radical feminist and Marxist indoctrination in the humanities and social science departments, etc. In this maelstrom of political correctness, gun control was taken as an axiom of civilized society. It is here that I was exposed for the first time to the stereotype of the racist, hillbilly, White, male gun owner. It is also here that I first learned of a meme making the rounds within the ethnic activist movement: the notion that the “White Man” (broadly defined) was purposely flooding the streets of poor neighborhoods with guns so that minorities would kill each other, to further a type of low-intensity genocidal project. (This meme is a recurrent one, and not always applied solely to firearms.) From the standpoint of the campus culture, advocating for gun or hunting rights was the equivalent of race betrayal, of submission to the patriarchal social structure, or of identification with the oppressor class. As I noted above, it was taken as a given that gun manufacturers flooded poor communities as a means of controlling them, as low-intensity genocide against non-White populations. The feminist argument centered more on the gun as a phallic symbol of patriarchal power and oppression, utilized to sustain the patriarchy and to inflict violence upon women (via their use in domestic violence and rape). Critically, my developing views on firearms were never challenged. There was no Internet, where divergent points of view might be voiced and balanced. Truth, as such, was an amalgam captured from the campus orthodoxy, the mainstream media, and the political culture of California. The situation was akin to the story of the cave in Plato’s The Republic: when trapped within a limited world, one presumes that the reality of the broader world is as one perceives it within that limited world. When exposed to the world “beyond the cave”, one can integrate new knowledge and adjust accordingly, or rebel and deny that which is inconsistent with what is held to be “Truth”. In much the same way, the university campus was like being chained in a cave, where one is fed morsels of knowledge that possess internal consistency and logic, but no external validity. To illustrate, let me propose the following argument: (1) government is good, its primary function being to take care of its citizens; (2) laws are the means by which government fulfills its functions; (3) therefore, gun control laws exist for our own good. If you accept the initial premise, then what follows is a logical consequence of that premise. It is this basic chain of logic that animates discussions regarding the “right” of government to “protect our children and communities from gun violence”. This logic is exceedingly powerful in its own right; when left unchallenged, it is well-nigh unassailable. So, these things I believed. Shut inside the campus echo culture, I understood gun control to be a struggle not against physical objects but against structural defects in the wider society. Ours was a “sick” culture, thoroughly infected with racism, sexism, and inequality, a veritable sewer of anachronisms and oppression. Chief among these anachronisms was the Second Amendment, a legal truncheon devised by slave-owning, rich, White men to maintain their hold on power. In this worldview, liberal and left-of-center politicians were the heroes: they passed laws to reform “the system”, for the benefit of the masses, to protect the innocent from the scourge of gun violence. The NRA, by contrast, was evil: the satanic incarnation of the racist, sexist, wife-beating White man. By getting rid of guns, the symbols of everything defective in America, we could begin a process towards the remediation of past injustices. In the entirety of my college years, I never held a firearm of any type. I never discussed gun rights or gun control with a gun owner. I never read an NRA pamphlet, or any gun rights publication. I did not personally know anyone, nor did I know of anyone, nor did I read of anyone, who utilized a firearm successfully in defense of self or family. Part III will narrate my views on gun control through graduate school.