Gun control is a hot-button issue across the country, and college campuses are now at the center of this growing debate.
Students and professors at Texas public universities may soon be able to carry guns on campus, according to a recent measure in the state’s House of Representatives. More than half of its members have signed on as co-authors of the measure, and the Senate passed a similar bill in 2009.
Eight other states including Arizona, Tennessee, Michigan, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Florida, Nebraska and Mississippi have pending “campus carry” legislation underway as well, according to David Burnett, director of public relations for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.
The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus has 275 schools in 36 different states supporting its initiative to keep colleges as gun-free zones. Andy Pelosi, executive director of the campaign, said this decision in Texas could certainly impact parents’ decisions about where to send their children to college. Nationwide there are 26 colleges with more than 70 campuses that allow concealed carry on campus, according to Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.
Having weapons legally allowed on campus negatively alters the atmosphere for students, Pelosi said.
“I think it has the potential to kill academic debate, if somebody has a gun in the classroom,” Pelosi said. “I am also concerned about the storage of weapons. Where will they be stored on campus? Also, the chances of them being stolen are quite real.”
The decision could also potentially impact a university’s insurance coverage, he said, and could result in higher premiums because the schools are more of a potential liability.
On the other hand, Burnett argued just the opposite, saying safety should always be a paramount concern for parents, and allowing concealed firearms on a college campus positively impacts the decision.
“I think that whether or not a school allows someone to defend themselves makes a big difference about where I would want to go to school,” Burnett said. “It impacts the decision process of parents, students and criminals.”
The process of applying for a firearm weeds out a majority of those who would use the weapon in an irresponsible or dangerous manner, he said.
“The point that I would impress on these campuses is that we are talking about former military, ROTC cadets, professors and other mature adults that went through state mandated requirements, exercises and fingerprinting,” Burnett said. “Not those with violent crimes, alcohol abuse or mental issues.”
Instead of allowing licensed guns on campus, Pelosi said he would much rather see a university concentrate its efforts on heightening campus security to make students feel more secure.
“I’d rather look at better lighting, better campus police—there are steps to be taken rather than putting safety in the hands of a carry to conceal weapons permit,” Pelosi said.
There is no real way to tell if the decision could potentially prevent tragedies on campus like the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, Pelosi said.
“You could say that a Virginia Tech type of shooting could have been avoided, but those types of incidents are extremely rare, and happened on college campuses that are extremely safe,” he said. “So, I wonder why we are introducing guns into that type of a campus.”
The issue is about safety, Burnett said, and as a student it is important to be able to protect yourself against the possibility of violence or crimes.
“A college cannot guarantee my safety or the safety of students, unless they have some way of ensuring gun-free zones,” Burnett said. “Right now, they put a sticker on the door that reminds killers that it is a gun-free zone, and that hasn’t stopped mass shooting or crimes. For someone who is licensed, trained and capable to carry a firearm, they need [to do] more than just ‘play dead’ [to protect themselves] in the case of a mass shooting.”