Gun rights on college campuses: Pros, cons and what state law says

In light of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut on December 14, 2012, debate has been renewed about legislation allowing or banning guns on college campuses, dorm rooms, classrooms and public places. Gun rights advocates say everyone, including students, have the right to defend themselves, while pro gun control advocates believe lack of guns on campuses is what keeps everyone safe. Each state has its own laws governing concealed weapons on campus — some allow it, some forbid it, while others let each institution decide for itself.

Pro guns on campus

The organization Students for Concealed Carry was formed with the help of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in 2007 following the mass shooting at Virginia Tech. The group believes that “holders of state-issued concealed handgun licenses should be allowed the same measure of personal protection on college campuses that current laws afford them virtually everywhere else.” Campus violence such as assault, rape, abduction and several recent high-profile shootings, demonstrate that “gun-free zones” do not stop perpetrators and serve only to disarm law-abiding citizens.

The NRA published the December 13, 2007 article “The New Campus Revolt: Empty Holsters” by Marshall Lewin who protests state laws that prevent students from carrying a gun on campus even if they have a Right-to-Carry permit. Lewin also reported that “firearms in the hands of peaceful, ordinary citizens have proven decisive in stopping some school shootings.”

Anti guns on campus

Armedcampuses.org is an anti-gun organization that lists the status of gun laws at colleges and universities throughout the United States. The site reports the American Association of State College and Universities as saying, “While police are extensively trained to deal with crises, students or university staff with concealed weapons are not… Even with the best of intentions, armed students or employees could escalate an already explosive situation further, accidentally cause harm, or use a gun in a situation that is not warranted.”

StudentsforGunFreeSchools.org reports that college campuses are some of the safest places in the country. A 2001 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that homicide rates at postsecondary education institutions was 0.07 per 100,000 people, compared with 5.7 for the country as a whole and 14.1 for persons aged 17 to 29. StudentsforGunFreeSchools attributes these results to strict policies forbidding guns on campuses.

 States that allow guns on campus

  • Colorado, Michigan and Virginia allow education institutions to ban guns at their discretion.
  • Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin currently allow carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus.
  • Utah mandates that colleges cannot forbid concealed handguns on campus.

Proposed legislation about carrying guns on campus exist in these states: Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas. These states are considering whether to:

  • allow anyone who already has a concealed carry gun license to have guns on a public college or university campus.
  • allow professors to have guns on campus.
  • allow students to carry guns on campus.
  • allow students, faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons on campus.
  • stop colleges from banning firearms on campus.

Michigan governor fights back

At the time of the Sandy Hook incident in Connecticut, Michigan was considering legislation that would have allowed concealed-gun license holders to carry a concealed pistol anywhere in the state as long as they had completed additional training in gun use and safety.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder vetoed the bill that would have allowed concealed weapons on college campuses in the state. “While we must vigilantly protect the rights of law-abiding firearm owners, we also must ensure the right of designated public entities to exercise their best discretion in matters of safety and security,” said Snyder. “These public venues need clear legal authority to ban firearms on their premises if they see fit to do so,” reported Lila Shapiro, December 18, 2012 in “Campus Gun Control Advocates Heartened By Michigan Governor Veto Of Guns In Schools” in Huffington Post.

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