trigger warning

Put trigger warnings in their proper place: on actual triggers

I’m sure that the college students and mental health professionals who have been leading the effort to impose trigger warnings on textbooks and reading assignments do not realize it, but they could be at the forefront of a massive public safety campaign.

For the uninitiated: Trigger warnings on books are designed to protect readers from harmful content or ideas that might contribute to pre-existing mental health conditions.They are controversial in higher education circles. Some colleges and universities say that reading assignments should stand on their own, and they are not supposed to coddle students; others say that they are trying to be sensitive to their students’ issues and that readers deserve a warning if something is likely to cause a panic attack or contribute to PTSD.

Well, here’s an idea and it doesn’t require a pesky reading assignment:  how about trigger warnings where they really belong: on real triggers, on actual guns.

Americans have been spectacularly unsuccessful in legislating almost any kind of gun control.  Maybe we should narrow our sights, so to speak. Maybe we could focus on trigger control.

In truth, it would be possible to do this tomorrow if the NRA (Normally Recalcitrant Assholes) got out of the way. Technology exists that would enable gun manufacturers to produce “smart guns”—weapons that could not be fired unless the fingerprint of the legitimate owner was putting pressure on the trigger. This would not solve the problem created when the gun owner goes ballistic and decides to invade a classroom, but it would certainly solve the trigger problem when a child obtains a gun or the firearm is stolen.

The idea of a smart gun seems especially relevant now, when the NRA (see above) and many Republican-controlled state legislatures are attempting to legalize guns on college campuses. What could possibly go wrong with this idea? Perhaps nothing.

Let’s put a trigger warning on every door and hope that the guns are smarter than the people who carry them.

Barbara Finch Barbara Finch (29 Posts)

Barbara L. Finch is a writer and former public relations practitioner. In 2005 she and three friends founded Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice, an organization of progressive women now numbering more than 500 members and friends.


  • Stacy Mergenthal

    Agreed. The Sandy Hook massacre may have been prevented by the use of biometrics on the guns used by the murderer, which belonged to his mother and not him. It’s unbelievable that slaughtering real live out-of-the-womb children didn’t phase the gun extremists whatsoever.