Middle ground for campus carry


Campus Carry Bills — If there ever were a contentious topic to be spoken of on campus, this would be it. The introduction of six of these bills into the West Virginia Legislature means that people will take sides. Once again, opinions will be shaped by the first three articles about this debate that you find on google. I will admit that I, too, formed my opinion on this topic from Google University. Still, having spent at least two hours skimming through websites, datasheets and the proposed Campus Carry Bills themselves, I feel more than qualified to offer my opinion on the topic. I think colleges and universities, on an individual basis, should be allowed to choose whether or not they allow concealed carrying of weapons on campus: here’s why. 

First, I feel it is best to point out that these bills only affect public colleges and universities — institutions of higher learning that receive state funds. These bills do not affect private colleges and universities. The first thing a person will likely Google to get some clarity in this debate is how many states allow carrying a concealed weapon on campus; nevertheless, the answer, it turns out, is very nuanced. You see, while 11 states expressly permit the carrying of concealed weapons, 23 states allow colleges and universities to make their own rules about concealed carrying. It’s easy to lump these all together and say 34 states allow concealed carrying on campus, but this is incorrect. The difference between the 11 states permitting concealed carry on campus and the 23 states giving colleges and universities a choice is a night and day comparison. The essential difference here lies in whether a public university should have a say in your right to carry a concealed weapon on campus.        I think they should, as many public spaces prohibit concealed weapons inside, such as post office and capitol buildings. I also believe that the best decision for what a campus needs comes from the campus itself. Giving them the ability to choose essentially removes the government and puts the onus on the students and staff to hash out a plan for concealed carrying. 

The other thing you may notice when trying to find what side you will land on in this debate is many statistics. Statistics will tell you that students’ perception of safety, if concealed carrying is allowed on campus, will be lower, or campus faculty polls that say they would be afraid if concealed carry is allowed on their campuses. You can find dozens of articles and research on the perception of these laws among students and faculty, most of which are negative; however, perception and reality are two entirely different things. And what I have found far less frequently in researching this is documents proving a link between concealed carrying on campus and increases in violent crime on campus. In fact, on some websites dedicated to stopping concealed carrying on campus, establishing a connection between concealed carrying on campus and violent crime isn’t even attempted. Instead, as is the case in an article on dosomething.org titled “11 Facts about Guns and College Campuses,” they say that there is no evidence guns make colleges safer, which is substantially dissimilar to them being a real threat. This point finally reveals the real issue at hand, feeling unsafe versus actually being in danger. The real chilling thing about all of this is that somehow a statistically significant portion of the population was fed a line about how concealed carrying poses a real threat to their lives when, by every estimation, it doesn’t. Still, we can save that discussion for a different day. 

For now, it’s essential to recognize that no one can argue, after seeing the statistics, that students and faculty feel unsafe if concealed carrying on campus is allowed. But should a person’s right to do something be abridged because of the feelings of others? I don’t think anyone would argue a news article shouldn’t be published because someone would feel bad if it was or that you should be arrested for saying something mean and hurtful. If you’re going to make a good argument for limiting someone’s right to do something, you should have to prove it presents a significant and real threat to others, not just that you feel it might be.    

All that being said, I think colleges and universities should be allowed to choose what they want the rules to be on their campus; this is the best middle-ground solution. Schools could look at their students’ needs, the surrounding area, and the police presence on campus and then make a good case for or against concealed carrying. Students would also have the option of going to a different school if they disagreed with a college or university’s decision. Giving schools the power to choose also means students and their feelings would be more represented. Instead of gathering multiple schools from across the state and making a case in front of the state legislature, students could organize on their campuses, pushing change there. And as a bonus, this would cause a headache for campus administrators and higher-ups, as no decision they make could ever satisfy everyone. Who doesn’t love when college sucks as much for the people running it as it does for the students?

Carter Truman can be reached at [email protected].