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Concealed Carry on Campus

By Stefan B. Tahmassebi
Deputy General Counsel, National Rifle Association of America

Hysterical claims are being made by the opponents of the recent bill introduced to allow concealed weapon permit holders to carry on state college campuses.

Unfortunately, sometimes tragic crimes occur on campuses. Sometimes they even involve firearms. But it should be noted that all of these campus shootings have involved schools where the gun prohibitionists have had their way. Such shootings occurred in so called "gun-free" schools - schools that have prohibited firearms on campus, even by students and professors that had gone through all the background checks and training requirements to obtain a concealed weapons permit. Unfortunately, the police were not able to timely intervene. A University of Alabama shooting took place literally next door to the campus police station.

You have to ask whether the outcomes might have been different, if any of the students, faculty or staff had been allowed to defend themselves. There is an answer to this question. A few years ago, an unstable student at the Appalachian Law School attacked students and staff with a firearm. As was widely reported in the press, he was stopped by other students. However, many of the news organizations failed to report that he was stopped by other students who had firearms. Unfortunately, the school had a "no guns on campus" policy, and so the good guys had to leave the school when the shooting began, run to their cars off school grounds to get their guns, and then run back inside to confront and stop the shooter. Unfortunately, during that time period, the shooter had shot six students and faculty, three of whom died. Refusing to allow guns on campus makes those who might otherwise be able to defend themselves easy prey for criminals.

Once again the gun prohibitionists recite the same tired old propaganda: You cannot trust concealed carry permit holders, in this case professors and students, with firearms; if you allow them to have firearms, they will kill themselves and each other, and "blood will flow in the streets." But what has actually happened at those institutions where the university actually trusted its professors and students that had obtained state concealed weapon permits? Universities that have allowed the right to carry to extend to their campuses have experienced a decrease in on-campus crime. Every public university in Utah has allowed concealed handguns on campus since 2006, and there have been no reported misfires, accidental shootings, gun crimes or any other gun-related incidents reported. None. Blue Ridge Community College in Virginia has also allowed concealed carrying on campus for several years, with zero incidents. After Colorado's "shall-issue concealed carry" law was passed in 2003, Colorado State University allowed concealed handguns to be carried on campus. Since then, the school's crime rate has declined. In 2002, 800 crimes were reported on campus, as opposed to 200 reported in 2008; a drop in crime of 75%. Sexual offenses dropped from 47 reported in 2002 to only 2 reported in 2008. Rapists now have to consider that their victim might be armed. The local sheriff reports absolutely no problem from concealed carry permit holders on campus. The University of Colorado, on the other hand, banned guns on campus and has experienced a 37% increase in crime over the same six year period.

The argument that students and professors are too irresponsible to be trusted with firearms fails when one considers the actual requirements for carrying a concealed weapon anywhere, including a college campus. Any student or professor wishing to carry a firearm would have to comply with their state's permit requirements. While these vary from state to state, they include criminal background checks, are limited to adults, have education and training requirements, and are designed to prevent anyone with a history of criminal behavior or mental problems from carrying a firearm. If a law abiding adult with a concealed carry permit has been deemed responsible enough to carry a firearm in the rest of the state, it is hard to find a reason why he or she should not be permitted to do so on campus.

Concealed carry permit holders are law abiding citizens. This is because you cannot obtain a concealed carry permit if you are not a law abiding citizen. Thus, while society at large contains a certain percentage of criminals, concealed carry permit holders do not. Secondly, as studies have shown, and despite the hysterical claims of the gun prohibitionists, concealed carry holders continue to be law abiding citizens even after they obtain the concealed carry permit. In order to rationalize the prohibition on concealed carrying on campus, you must believe that the otherwise law abiding permit holder, by merely stepping onto a campus, transforms from a responsible law abiding adult who has passed all the requirements to obtain a concealed weapon permit, into a reckless criminal. There are no studies that support this irrational hysteria.

Published March 16, 2011

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