Campus safety regulations have been a hot topic since April 2007, when a student killed 32 people on a Virginia Tech campus. No federal law restricts guns on campus. It is up to states to decide whether it is legal or illegal for college students to carry guns on campus. Some states want to tighten regulations to keep guns off-campus. Others feel the need to ease existing regulations and allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus.
Gun violence is a threat to college students, faculty and employees. From 2001 to 2016, there were 190 shootings on college campuses. The number of shootings and people injured has skyrocketed over the past few years. According to Everytown Gun Safety, there have already been at least 55 incidents of guns being fired on school grounds this year. This has caused 31 injuries and 8 deaths. Only a small percentage of the use of guns on campuses appears to be in self-defense.
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The gun issue is intensely politicized
As higher educators grapple with keeping campuses safe, there is growing political pressure to allow concealed carry on campus. In recent years, the issue has been intensely debated. State laws regarding guns on campus tend to fall along political lines. Many red states have changed the law to permit firearms, while blue states have mostly upheld gun bans at colleges and universities.
The pro-gun position
Those who are in favor of concealed carry often refer to the Second Amendment. This amendment speaks about the right to keep and bear arms. They argue that self-defense is a constitutional right. Their belief is that campuses are safer when people can protect themselves and others with guns. After the Virginia Tech shooting, Students for Concealed Carry was created. They spearheaded an effort across the nation to allow concealed firearms on college and university campuses.
The anti-gun position
Many people do not believe that concealed weapons should be it will have the opposite effect. The faculty has concerns that the presence of firearms allowed on campus. They don’t think that guns on campuses will promote more safety. They think it promotes a “culture of fear.” People don’t have freedom of expression due to a fear of violence.
There are also concerns about student responsibility. Students’ brains are still developing, and impulse control isn’t fully developed until the age of 24. With so many students who experiment with alcohol and drugs, adding guns to the mix seems like an unwise idea.
Concealed carry permitted
Concealed carry is permitted on campus in 11 states in some form or another. Rules allowing concealed carry differ by region and application. On Kansas college campuses, guns are permitted with very few restrictions.
Texas has also legalized concealed carry at all public institutions but with a little leeway for college campus policies. Some colleges only permit concealed carry on the grounds and not inside buildings. There are other colleges that allow guns only when locked in cars.
Concealed carry prohibited
Concealed carry is prohibited on campus in 16 states. Persons knowingly carrying a concealed weapon, even with a permit, can be fined or imprisoned. Michigan is one of these states, and guns are banned at all colleges and universities within its borders.
Colleges can make their own rules
In 23 states, colleges can make their own rules about concealed carry, and there are no criminal penalties. Carriers do face academic sanctions such as expulsion or suspension for students and termination for faculty and employees.
The issue of guns on campus is still being hotly debated in statehouses. In 2021, two states passed opposing laws on concealed carry. One gave colleges and universities more authority to ban guns, and the other took away that authority.
The political climate in the U.S. makes a universal ban on guns on campuses unlikely. It is important to conduct more research on the effects of gun bans and concealed carry in higher education. For both campuses that allow concealed weapons and those that don‘t, preventing gun violence is a major concern.