NBC Touts Anti-Gun Professor Asking: 'When May I Shoot a Student?'

Reacting to Idaho passing a law to allow teachers and students to carry guns on college campuses, Thursday's NBC Today promoted a Boise State University professor opposed to the legislation who authored a New York Times Op/Ed absurdly titled: "When May I Shoot a Student?" [Listen to the audio]

Co-host Matt Lauer hyped how the satirical essay was "spurring debate over guns on campuses." Fill-in co-host Tamron Hall fretted over the "controversial measure" to let citizens exercise their Second Amendment rights and declared professor Greg Hampikian's Times article to be "eye-opening."   

In the report that followed, correspondent Joe Fryer proclaimed: "Hampikian is a DNA expert suddenly diving into politics, concerned about plans to allow guns on college campuses. He recently wrote a satirical letter to Idaho lawmakers, published in the New York Times and headlined by a shocking question."

Talking to Hampikian, Fryer observed: "'When may I shoot a student?' That's provocative." Hampikian asserted: "It's serious as well."

Fryer quoted from the supposedly "serious" critique: "He asks, 'If I'm working out a long equation on the board and several students try to correct me using their laser sights, am I allowed to fire a warning shot?'"

Fryer then asked the professor: "Do you have any concerns about your safety if this passes?" Hampikian admitted: "No. Honestly, no." Fryer added: "Rather Hampikian hoped his letter would draw attention to a bill in the Idaho legislature that's opposed by the leaders of all eight public colleges."

In August of 2013, Today gave a teacher's union president a platform to condemn the idea of allowing teachers and staff to have guns in school to protect students in the event of a mass shooting. New Jersey American Federation of Teachers president Donna Chiera was not being satirical when she ranted: "I would hate for students to say, 'Oh, my goodness, if I answer the wrong question, is my teacher going to shoot me? If I make my teacher angry, is my teacher going to shoot me?'"

On Thursday, Fryer did provide time to supporters of the new Idaho law: "Supporters say those with enhanced concealed carry permits have a right to protect themselves within campus borders."

A sound bite ran of Republican state representative Jason Monks explaining: "I personally look at this more of as an individual protection, not for the masses, but for the individuals." Monks's son, an Idaho college student, was also featured: "I wouldn't be able to live with myself knowing that I watched something so horrible and heinous happen and that people were murdered and I just had to lay down and just hope that I wasn't next."
Wrapping up the report, Fryer turned back to the professor, who gloated: "People are talking about it all over the country." Fryer concluded: "Hampikian says he just wanted his letter to generate opinions, something everyone has a license to carry."

Hall gushed: "Yeah, mission accomplished to open the dialogue, which is so important. I love seeing the students all have a different point of view to add to it."

Here is a full transcript of the March 13 report:

7:21 AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: And the college professor behind a provocative essay entitled, "When may I shoot my student?" Spurring debate over guns on campuses.

7:37 AM ET SEGMENT:

TAMRON HALL: And now to Idaho, where the governor has now signed a bill that will allow guns on college campuses. It's a controversial measure that's generated a lot of debate and an eye- opening letter from one professor. Here's NBC's Joe Fryer.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Controversy on Campus; Should Concealed Guns Be Allowed In Schools?]

GREG HAMPIKIAN [PROFESSOR, BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY]: I'm a biology professor, not a lawyer. And I'd never considered bringing a gun to work until now. But since many of my students are likely to be armed, I thought it would be a good idea to even the playing field.

JOE FRYER: At Boise State University, Greg Hampikian is a DNA expert suddenly diving into politics, concerned about plans to allow guns on college campuses. He recently wrote a satirical letter to Idaho lawmakers, published in the New York Times and headlined by a shocking question.

HAMPIKIAN: When may I shoot a student?

FRYER: "When may I shoot a student?"

HAMPIKIAN: Right.

FRYER: That's provocative.

HAMPIKIAN: It's serious as well.

FRYER: Mass shootings like Virginia Tech, Newtown, and Columbine often come to mind when discussing guns in schools. But Hampikian's tongue-in-cheek letter focuses on how teachers might feel in a classroom where guns are legal. He writes about past encounters with disgruntled students.

HAMPIKIAN: But I always assume that when they reached into their backpacks, they were going for a pencil. But now that they we'll all be packin' heat, I would like legal instruction in the rules of classroom engagement.

FRYER: He asks, "If I'm working out a long equation on the board and several students try to correct me using their laser sights, am I allowed to fire a warning shot?"

[TO HAMPIKIAN]: Do you have any concerns about your safety if this passes?

HAMPIKIAN: No. Honestly, no.

FRYER: Rather Hampikian hoped his letter would draw attention to a bill in the Idaho legislature that's opposed by the leaders of all eight public colleges.

But supporters say those with enhanced concealed carry permits have a right to protect themselves within campus borders.

JASON MONKS [R-IDAHO STATE REP.]: I personally look at this more of as an individual protection, not for the masses, but for the individuals.

FRYER: State representative Jason Monks has three kids in college, including Kelby, who plans to carry a gun on campus. He's more worried about every day criminals, but school shootings concern him, too.

KELBY MONKS: I wouldn't be able to live with myself knowing that I watched something so horrible and heinous happen and that people were murdered and I just had to lay down and just hope that I wasn't next.

FRYER: With so many opinions, Professor Hampikian opened up debate in class.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [STUDENT]: In a situation where – when you're defending yourself, you are reacting to an attack, why not try to level the playing field as much as possible?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [STUDENT]: People are going to carry whether you restrict them or not.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN B [STUDENT]: I have a concealed carry, I don't necessarily think it's appropriate on campus. I'm kind of torn on it.

HAMPIKIAN: People are talking about it all over the country.  

FRYER: Hampikian says he just wanted his letter to generate opinions, something everyone has a license to carry.

For Today, Joe Fryer, NBC News, Boise, Idaho.

NATALIE MORALES: Generated a lot of opinions there.

HALL: Yeah, mission accomplished to open the dialogue, which is so important. I love seeing the students all have a different point of view to add to it.

MATT LAUER: No question about it.

— Kyle Drennen is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.