Due to violence on college campuses in recent years, state legislatures across the country have revisited the appropriate course of policy actions to address this pressing national issue. The proposed policy actions to address the threat of gun violence on campus have crossed the political spectrum; some advocates have called for heavier regulation while others push for individuals to possess concealed firearms on campus, if they so choose. The controversy, in large part, centers on the degree to which concealed carry weapons would alter the perception of safety on campus. Concealed carry laws allow individuals who have obtained permits to carry a weapon on their person in a concealed fashion, except for in specified venues, which include government buildings, elementary/secondary schools, and hospitals among others.
Currently, all 50 states allow citizens who meet certain requirements to carry concealed weapons. The discussion at hand relates to the presence of concealed carry weapons on college campuses. Last year, state legislation regarding concealed carry weapons on campus gained traction in many states. Why the conversation now? Violence on college campuses is not new. Some colleges and universities are moving toward allowing concealed carry weapons on campus; however, most currently prohibit guns on campus. NASPA supports this position and urges its members to continue to take a stand against legislation that would allow students to carry a concealed weapon. According to the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, some 370 colleges and universities from 42 states have spoken out against concealed carry on campus. In a joint statement published September 2014, Keep Guns off Campus, Kevin Kruger states, “with a single voice, and representing over 50,000 student affairs administrators and educators on over 2000 college campuses, we stand united in our opposition to any legislation that allows or expands the legal possession of firearms other than by trained law enforcement officers or through institutionally endorsed educational programs. “
In 2013, notes the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states introduced legislation that would have allowed concealed weapons to be carried on campus in some regard (i.e., on the person, in the trunk of a vehicle). Two of the bills allowing concealed carry weapons passed in Kansas and Arkansas. As reported by Armed Campuses, the legislation in Arkansas provides for faculty only to carry concealed weapons.
According to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, 23 states leave the decision to allow concealed weapons to be carried on public campus up to the individual campuses themselves. In 20 states, statutes ban concealed weapons on public campuses. In seven states, campuses are required by state law to allow concealed weapons on public campuses in some regard. These seven states include Utah, Oregon, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Colorado, Kansas, and Idaho.
As states deliberate concealed carry legislation, lingering, yet critically important questions remain unanswered: Will concealed carry weapons on campus impact the occurrence of violent crimes? Does a relationship exist between concealed carry weapons on campus and violent crimes? As Birnbaum states in his 2013 article, “Ready, Fire, Aim: The College Campus Gun Fight,” the debate is largely ideological and conflates the issues of concealed carry weapon laws and safety on college campuses.
What would be the advantage to permitting concealed carry weapons on campus? Is it not curious that in the very spaces where concealed carry legislation is being deliberated by elected leaders, the presence of firearms has no place due to the important task to assure the safety of these individuals?