Social media has been active with the usual gnashing of teeth and cries of doom as Texas’ campus carry laws expanded to community and junior colleges. Texas is one of 10 states where it is currently legal for licensed students and faculty to carry concealed firearms. In 2004, Utah became the first state to pass such a law. There are now 11 states where it is legal for a person licensed to carry a concealed firearm to do so on college campuses. It isn’t quite that simple, as the laws vary greatly by state. Utah, for example, simply said that state laws applying to where a concealed firearm can be carried apply on college campuses. Tennessee is on the other end of the spectrum, as only licensed faculty and staff are allowed to carry. In between, there are limits on where and when weapons can be carried and by whom. Twenty one other states leave the decision up to the individual institutions, which is a de facto ban on campus carry. It is expressly forbidden in the remaining states and the District of Columbia.
According to the anti-gun crowd, this is a recipe for disaster and calls for the usual emotional response. Their protests are what we’ve come to expect and cover a wide array of knee-jerk reactions, but I have condensed them into five basic complaints.
- An increase in firearms on campus will lead to an increase in violent crime. This is a common theme in just about every anti-gun protest and is simply not supported by the statistics. Studies suggest the rate of firearms-related crimes committed by persons with a concealed carry permit is about 2.4 per 100,000 people, not even close to the 3,813 per 100,000 for the general population. By all accounts, those who go through the training and red-tape of obtaining a concealed carry permit are more responsible and safer than the average citizen. Based on my personal experience, those who carry a firearm on a daily basis are very aware of the responsibility which they have assumed by choosing to go armed. In searching the internet, I was not able to find a single instance where a concealed-carry permit holder committed any sort of crime on a college campus. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but clearly demonstrates the rarity of such occurrences.
- The college years are marked by excessive alcohol and drug use, which will lead to irresponsible gun use. Drug and alcohol use are certainly serious problems among college-age students. In every state, regardless of the laws governing campus carry, it is illegal to be intoxicated and in possession of a firearm. Period. It does not matter where you are or whether or not you have a permit. If you are too impaired to drive, you are too impaired to carry a gun. For me personally, I won’t even have a beer with dinner if I’m armed. Legally, I could, but I have made the decision that I do not want any level of impairment if I have to make a shoot/don’t shoot decision. We should be far more concerned with the damage done to students by binge drinking and driving while under the influence than drunken frat boys shooting up campus.
- College students lack the maturity and emotional stability to responsibly carry a firearm. Tell that to the 18-21 year-olds who carry a rifle every day in defense of this country. First of all, you must remember that in order to obtain a concealed carry permit, it must be legal for you to possess a hand gun, which means that you must be at least 21 years of age. Some states allow for citizens as young as 18 to apply for a permit, but only if they are serving or have served in the armed forces. We aren’t talking about children carrying guns. We are talking about people our society considers to be adults. Citizens. Voters. Yes, I know that not all 21 year-olds are created equal and I understand college can be an emotionally charged environment. The pressures of maintaining grades, social interactions, and student poverty are very real. Again, there is absolutely no evidence that concealed carriers are more likely to snap in such situations than other students.
- People carrying guns on campus will distract from the learning environment/create fear among students and faculty. Why? This is the least logical of the arguments against campus carry. As we have already discussed, citizens with concealed carry permits are far less likely to commit a crime than the average citizen. The more obvious question is, how will you know if someone is carrying if they are concealing the weapon properly? That’s why it’s called “concealed carry”! There are approximately 15 million people in the US today with a concealed carry permit. Odds are (assuming you live in a state that actually aknowledges the Constitution) you walk by an armed citizen every day. If you’re in a restaurant, you might be sitting right across from someone who is legally armed. The only time you’ll know is if something bad happens and that citizen reacts. Otherwise, you will never know who is armed and who isn’t. How is that going to be a distraction? The media is what creates fear, not legal gun owners.
- Campus and local law enforcement are sufficient to keep our campuses safe. This argument holds as much water on campus as it does elsewhere. When seconds count the police are minutes away! If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I have nothing but respect for law enforcement. They have a nearly impossible and often thankless job. They do the best they can, but they can’t be everywhere all the time. For example, the University of Tennessee Police Department in Knoxville has 54 commissioned officers. There are over 28,000 students enrolled at UTK, along with over 1700 faculty and even more staff. The Knoxville campus covers 910 acres in the middle of a city of just under 190,000 people. That means there are 54 officers to keep nearly 40,000 people safe, assuming no one from the outside community is on campus. Major surface streets run through campus, so there is never a time when others aren’t on campus. That’s about one officer for every 740 people. Clearly, it is not possible for the police, in spite of their best efforts, to monitor the safety of all of those people. The Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 is a tragic example. It took the police 3 minutes to arrive on scene once the call was received, then 5 more minutes to gain entry into the building. That’s remarkably good time given the circumstances. Unfortunately, it was not fast enough to prevent the murder of 30 people. Could a student or faculty member legally carrying a firearm have stopped this incident or at least reduced the number of casualties? We can’t know the answer to that, but logic dictates any type of return fire would have at least distracted the shooter, if not put him down. Even if it had caused him to panic and end his own life sooner, at least less innocent victims would have been injured or killed.
Sexual assaults on college campuses are becoming more prevalent. If we continue using UTK as our example, the problem has grown significantly in recent years. Young women are trained now to fight as hard as they can and make as much noise as possible if they are attacked. This is good training, but only marginally effective. Why should we hamstring a young woman’s ability to defend herself by not allowing her the most effective means of defense possible? Why is it accepted that women will just have to be a disadvantage in a physical confrontation with a male assailant? Young woman deserve to be able to protect themselves, to be empowered to go where they need to go when they need to go there, regardless of the time of day or whether or not friends can go with them. Legally carrying a firearm is the ultimate empowerment. This is one of the reasons why the largest growth in gun ownership in recent years has been among women.
So, what scares you about campus carry? Nothing should. In spite of what is being said, no one is advocating for sending hoards of armed teenagers off to college. Rather, the object is for the laws governing the carrying of a firearm to apply on public college campuses just like they do anywhere else. As a citizen, why does my right to protect myself end when I cross an imaginary line and enter the campus at UTK? There are literally places where you’re on campus on one side of the street and off on the other. Am I more of a threat on one side of the street than the other? As a parent, I want my child to be able to protect herself when she goes to college. Sure, I want her campus to be as safe as possible to begin with, but I understand bad things happen in the safest of places. I hope she’ll choose to get the training and apply for her concealed carry permit as soon as she can legally do so. Like most everyone who carries, I want everyone to be as safe as possible, except for those who seek to do us harm. I want them to be scared. Scared that the next person they decide to mug or worse will be the one to end their criminal career, one way or another. I want the next lunatic looking for somewhere to go out in a blaze of glory to have a hard time finding a place where they won’t fear being stopped immediately by armed citizens. Right now, most college campuses are giant targets of opportunity for such people. Thankfully, the targets get harder every time a state decides to allow campus carry. If your state doesn’t allow it, I hope you’ll contact your representatives and encourage them to introduce legislation which will change it. If you oppose campus carry, I hope you’ll sit down and honestly think about the reasons why you feel the way you do. Ignore what the media tells you and look at the facts. I think you’ll see you really have nothing to fear.