More than 19 million students are set to begin spring semester in colleges across the United States. With mass shootings and individual crimes on college campuses lingering in the minds of parents, students, and college employees, safety is critical and invaluable. But university police departments are admittedly over-stretched and unprepared, endangering the well-being of students and faculty. While some states are rushing to restrict the Second Amendment, others are now restoring it to college campuses and providing an option for self-defense.
Earlier this year, Idaho became the 7th state to enact a statute permitting students to carry concealed weapons on all public college campuses, while 20 states completely ban this act. Groups like Students for Concealed Carry on Campuses (SCCC), which formed in the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, want Americans to have their rights extended to college campuses. Government officials have created illogical and arbitrary lines of demarcation where it is deemed perfectly acceptable for legal and responsible Americans to carry firearms but illegal for these same citizens to do so on many campuses. SCCC’s intent is to work with legislators and college administrators to reestablish gun rights in colleges to ensure that they are no longer off-limits to legal concealed carry license (CCL) holders. Since forming in 2007, SCCC has seen major victories across the nation too, including Colorado, Oregon, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Idaho.
Everytown for Gun Safety released a long list of supposed school shootings that have occurred since late 2012. This study has been maligned for over-reporting and including events that aren’t germane. Still, using their school shooting study, there has been exactly one multiple death college shooting in which the victims were affiliated with the school since December 2012 – the Santa Monica College shooting. Even though one college shooting spree is far too many, they are relatively rare occurrences. However, students and faculty alike should still be permitted to defend themselves because university police departments aren’t prepared. In 2009, only 18% of college police precincts had policies in place to handle campus shootings, and in 2013, 1 in 4 felt that they were unprepared for an active shooter incident.
College shootings may not be an epidemic, but college campuses are still not safe places. According to the Department of Education, from 2010-2012 there were 43 murders, 10,377 forcible sex offenses, 5,117 robberies, and 7,622 aggravated assaults on American college campuses. After spot-checking these numbers, it’s apparent that these are very low estimates that are underreporting crimes. The actual numbers are likely much, much higher.
Each one of these victims and crime survivors deserved better. If they were legal and responsible citizens, then they should have been afforded the option to carry a firearm for self-protection. This is a basic right, and it’s necessary because law enforcement officers are not effectively protecting them. Ultimately, defense is often left in the hands of common Americans. The Supreme Court has even ruled that police officers have no legal duty to protect individuals, but even when public safety actions are implemented, the results aren’t always positive. In 1970, Army National Guard Soldiers opened fire and killed 4 unarmed students at Kent State University during a protest.
Gun ownership is now the highest it’s been in over 20 years as many Americans are discovering that owning a firearm can increase much needed security. The number of concealed carry permits issued has skyrocketed too, and unsurprisingly, gun crimes have dropped by 49% since 1993. These CCL holders are known to be much more responsible than average Americans, and a study showed that states permitting concealed carry have lower violent crime rates. It’s safe to assume that crime rates on campuses permitting concealed carry would likely drop too. However, critics claim that allowing guns on campuses would lead to more shootings and gun-related accidents, but this doesn’t create an environment that fosters school shootings or breeds fatal accidents. In order to have a concealed carry license, Americans must go through the rigorous CCL background check and, in some states, extensive training. Using Everytown for Gun Safety’s study, out of the 7 states that permit concealed carry at all public campuses, there have been zero college shooting deaths since the beginning of the study.
Students and college employees, just like all Americans, deserve the opportunity to defend themselves and exercise a right guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. Laws that ban guns from college campuses, like other gun-free zones, simply make it easier to victimize defenseless and vulnerable Americans who have been denied a basic right, a right which shouldn’t require justification for its use. Former Virginia Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, said, “It certainly can be argued that [gun ban] policies are ineffectual because persons who wish to perpetrate violence will ignore them, and that the net effect of such policies is to leave defenseless the law-abiding citizens who follow these policies.” It’s time to quit scapegoating guns and restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens because of the unlawful actions of a few.