Calls for Repeals of Campus Carry Laws Coming From Law Enforcement and Higher Education Organizations
Posted By Donna Fuscaldo on December 7, 2015 at 9:39 am
In the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting and other violence that has played out on campuses around the country, support for so-called campus carry laws has increased. Though, not without public opposition, coming from national higher education organizations as well as university law enforcement.
The legislation, which already has approval in eight states, allows any licensed gun owner to carry a concealed weapon on public college and university campuses. It’s already on the books in Oregon, where the Umpqua shooting took place and had been introduced by 33 states as of 2014.
Supporters of the legislation argue that just because people can bring concealed weapons to school doesn’t mean it will increase violence. They say it can protect students and faculty from a shooter and enable people to better defend themselves from all sorts of crimes that occur on college campuses around the country.
According to a recent Association of American Universities survey of 150,000 students from 27 colleges and universities, 27.2% of female college seniors reported they had experienced unwanted sexual contact while they were incapacitated. “Criminals do not abide by gun-free zones, and gun-free zones make law-abiding citizens sitting ducks for criminals,” says Catherine Mortensen, a spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association.
Campus carry law supporters want to prevent schools from banning guns
Proponents of the campus carry legislation are also looking for ways to prevent public schools from instituting their own rules regarding guns on campus. Texas Republican Senator Brian Birdwell, the author of the Campus Carry bill, is asking Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to weigh in on how far schools can go to institute their own rules regarding guns on campus.
Birdwell argues the bill prevents public colleges from adopting any rules that prevent licensed gun owners from carrying handguns on campus. If Paxton backs Birdwell’s interpretation, colleges and universities will be very constrained in their ability to control where on campus guns will be allowed.
Public opposition growing
Despite the seeming groundswell of support for campus carry legislation, it is facing public outcry, most recently from the University of Wisconsin System’s chiefs of police. Last week, University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Chief Sue Riseling said in a statement on behalf of all 13 police chiefs “our colleges do not need more guns. Guns do not belong in our classrooms, student centers, laboratories, workout facilities, locker rooms, offices, residence halls or athletic venues.” The chiefs said they oppose any legislation that would allow citizens to legally carry concealed weapons inside university buildings or any legislation that would weaken the school’s prohibitions on guns on campus.
Their public opposition echoes similar sentiments expressed by the American Association of University Professors, American Federation of Teachers, Association of American Colleges and Universities and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. Earlier this month, they issued a joint statement explaining the reasons they are opposed to the legislation. “Colleges and universities closely control firearms and prohibit concealed guns on their campuses because they regard the presence of weapons as incompatible with their educational missions. College campuses are marketplaces of ideas, and a rigorous academic exchange of ideas may be chilled by the presence of weapons. Students and faculty members will not be comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they think there might be a gun in the room.”
Guns not conducive to learning?
In calling for a repeal of campus carry laws already on the books and blockage of future campus carry legislation, they did offer up ways to protect faculty and students when school is in session. “We encourage colleges and universities to embrace critical incident planning that includes faculty and staff and to advise all faculty and staff of these plans,” said the groups in a statement. “We further call on these institutions to rely on trained and equipped professional law-enforcement personnel to respond to emergency incidents. State legislative bodies must refrain from interfering with decisions that are properly the responsibility of the academic community.”
Meanwhile, AAC&U said in a statement that higher education institutions should be safe places where students can freely express their own views, but that the presence of concealed weapons in college classrooms can silence students and professors. “There have been unprecedented attacks from many sectors in recent years on higher education institutions and on their authority to create and shape healthy and diverse learning environments, but none is as dangerously destructive as the recent calls to allow concealed firearms on college campuses,” says AAC&U President Carol Geary Schneider.