(03/05/2019)
By Bil Lepp, CHARLESTON GAZETTE

"Let's set the couch on fire!" is something West Virginia University students used to say, and do, when they wanted to celebrate a momentous occasion.

Hauling a couch to the curb, dousing it in accelerant, and tossing a match at the mess so that it exploded into flame was such a popular show of revelry in Morgantown that WVU and city authorities saw the situation as a dire emergency and strenuously cracked down on the practice.

Reasonable, emotionally stable, public college students who always make mature and wise decisions, and are even sometimes sober, are no longer permitted to burn couches on city streets.

Somebody had to enact and enforce a rule to ban couch burning.

Let's sum this up: Some students at public colleges in West Virginia aren't responsible enough to own couches. Officials had to act because couches were being used in dangerous, harmful and life-threatening ways. And what should you do with a passel of college students who can't be trusted to use furniture in a safe, prescribed manner? Arm them, evidently.

As far as I know, it is still legal to own a couch on campuses around the state. It is probably even legal to carry a concealed couch on campus without a license. But my guess is that, if a student were walking around with a couch, a can of gasoline and a match, some concerned faculty member might question the student's intentions. Authorities would have a serious discussion with said student, and likely confiscate the couch.

Students who would be stopped from carrying a couch on West Virginia public college campuses will soon be able to carry loaded firearms, if the West Virginia Legislature, and the National Rifle Association, get their way.

We cannot and should not disassociate couch burning from gun carrying.

I'm a gun owner and I know I'll get crazy messages for posting this piece. I'll get labeled a Fudd, and lectured on why it is necessary for every citizen to carry weapons, but ...

People who cannot be trusted with couches cannot be trusted with guns.

This isn't a Second Amendment issue. This is a "can't be trusted with furniture" issue.

I am not suggesting that all gun owners are couch burners, but in an environment of known underage drinking, lots of partying, and wherein authorities have had to make specific rules regulating furniture conflagration, is it wise to introduce firearms?

When my neighbor returned from dropping her son off at WVU, she reported that there was a sign hanging from a frat house which read, "We welcome your daughter. She's been yours for 18 years. She's ours now." Should people who are, at the very least, being sexist, and quite possibly threatening sexual aggression, also be allowed to carry firearms?

This whole idea of kids walking around campus with guns is preposterous enough, but let's play a ridiculous game. What if the Second Amendment read:

"A well rested Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Couches, shall not be infringed."

If the authors of Second Amendment had used the word 'rested' rather than 'regulated,' and 'Couches' instead of 'Arms' we would have an ultra-conservative group called the National Couch Association (NCA), instead of the National Rifle Association. The NCA would be arguing that banning couch burning endangered not only the rights of couch owners, but the very security of the United States. "Students must have the right to burn couches!"

Delegates who opposed concealed couch carrying on campuses would receive an F rating from the National Couch Association.

If the Legislature managed to pass a couch carry law similar to this gun carry bill, state colleges and universities would have to spend $11 million to build lockers to store couches, and no couches would be permitted in the Coliseum.

If that strikes you as absurd, that's because it is.

It is curious that students will be allowed to carry guns on campus, but not in their dorms. Why exclude guns in personal living spaces? Why is it necessary to stipulate that students can carry guns, but can't take them to where they live? If the idea of carrying a gun on campus is for personal protection and to deter mass shootings, why exclude possession of firearms in living quarters? Don't people spend the majority of time where they live? Even the legislators pushing this bill realize it is a bad idea to have armed students alone in their rooms.

If legislators acknowledge that students can't be trusted alone in their rooms with firearms, why and how can they be trusted in public?

I get it. It's a slippery slope. You ban couches, what's next? Recliners? Folding chairs? Three-legged stools? Toilets? Squatting? Pretty soon, everybody would be standing around, barred even from leaning or reclining. It doesn't make sense.

But certain members of the West Virginia Legislature aren't interested in what makes sense. They are only interested in who lines their pockets and pays for their dinners. If the price of a free meal costs the state $11 million and puts guns on the hips of kids who can't use sofas without responsible adult supervision, so be it.

Bil Lepp, of South Charleston, is a professional storyteller and writer.


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