Anti-gun professor wrestles over whether to write reference for pro-gun student

A science professor’s personal feelings about firearms is leading her to consider instituting her own form of gun control -- refusing to write a letter of recommendation for a student gun enthusiast.

Writing under a pseudonym, Myrtle Lynn Payne, the instructor at an unidentified western college, said she’s conflicted about whether to honor the girl’s request for a recommendation note, given the professor’s deep disdain for guns.

“How can I say that I don’t want to support students who are gun enthusiasts, without getting put on some sort of list?” she wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education on April 18.

“Payne” admits growing up around guns, but said her mother removed them from the home after her father was diagnosed as a manic-depressive. Now she teaches in a “red meat” area.

“This is what people do in their free time here: guns and pancakes,” she wrote. “Welcome to America, professor.”

Payne introduces the student, given the pseudonym “Sarah,” when the girl talks to the class about firing an AK-47 at a gun range during her winter break.

“I gave the usual ‘very good, moving on’ response, but was thinking, ‘Whoa, that’s disturbing,” Payne wrote.

In another instance, the teacher overhears the girl talking about obtaining a concealed-carry permit.

When Sarah later asks Payne to write her a recommendation for a teacher-credential program, Payne initially says “yes” because “I usually do.” But the more Payne thinks about it, the more she agonizes.

“On one side are all of my ideas about supporting students, honoring their individuality and their journeys, creating a safe space for them (and myself), not taking things out of context, not overinterpreting,” Payne wrote. “On the other side are my memories of growing up in a situation where guns, people, and bullets had to be rigorously kept apart, lest they find each other in a tragic moment of instability.”

It is not clear if Sarah ever received a letter from Payne.

Click to read more from The Chronicle of Higher Education.