Opinion: “Divest-Happy” students vilify gun industry at the cost of…higher tuition?

Forget about protests in the quad or marches through the streets. These methods have become passé for today’s generation of college students. Campus activists throughout the nation are discovering a new form of protest: divestment.

Yes, these idealistic “youts” believe that by pressuring their university system to divest from certain “evil” industries, they can draw attention to injustice and do their part to collapse those industries. Unsurprisingly, the University of California system has set the standard and pace for this oft-misguided movement.

Earlier this year, the University of California Student Association (UCSA) called on the university system to divest from companies who do business with Israel in its disputed territories. It has considered divestment from the oil and gas industry. And two years ago, it decided to divest from gun companies.

But that wasn’t enough.

Last Sunday, the UCSA unanimously passed a resolution that: 1) demands “transparency” regarding the university’s external investments; 2) requires the UC Board of Regents to disinvest any existing investments in gun corporations; and 3) calls for the prohibition of all future investments in the gun industry.

As Melvin Singh, co-author of the resolution and external vice president of statewide affairs at the Associated Students of UC Santa Barbara, explained: “While (the UC Office of the President) claims to not be invested, they have not stated publicly that they would ban investing in the gun industry. We want a guarantee that they will never invest again.”

How dramatic! How principled! How dumb!

It’s pretty obvious that the members of the UCSA are trying to make a simple statement about the gun industry—that it’s pure evil, just like those “violent” Israelis who are trying to defend their homeland and those “wicked” oil and gas companies who are powering their lives.

But at what cost?

The UC Regents control policy for the institution’s investment portfolio of nearly $81 billion. At this point, we can only guess how much of the university funds were invested in gun companies before the first resolution was passed two years ago.

What we do know is that sales of guns and ammunition have skyrocketed under the Obama administration. The FBI’s most recent NICS report (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) on background checks showed an 8.4% increase year over year in January. And January 2015 was the second-highest January on record.

Dividends from gun company holdings could have at least mitigated the institution’s proposed tuition hikes, which are estimated at up to 5 percent in each of the next three years. To offer some perspective, UCLA’s campus could collect about $38 million in tuition from these hikes. Annual tuition and fees could rise to $15,564 in this public university.

What’s worse is that UCSA’s “bold” move to divest funds from the gun industry two years ago was a complete failure by any metrics. The gun industry is thriving, and the UCSA’s efforts to shame it have ultimately backfired. In other words, the UC system is simply shooting itself in the foot.

Americans are smart enough to realize that the gun industry is not responsible for gun violence, and that, in a world with guns, good people have a right to protect themselves. Guns companies aren’t evil. Evil people are evil.

Divestment can be a valid and honorable form of protest, but it is powerless against human reason.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of Guns.com.