November 15, 2018

U.S. colleges too gun-shy?

The National Conference of State Legislature (NCSL) reported that in the U.S., eight states allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus.

In 23 states, the students’ privilege to carry a concealed firearm is left up to individual universities across the state.

Only 19 states in the United States place an outright ban on concealed weapon carry on campus. Missouri falls into this category.

A 2007 report by the Small Arms Survey reported that even though the U.S. only accounts for five percent of the world’s population, we own between 35-50 percent of the world’s civilian-owned guns.

Firearms are not going away in our country anytime soon, and the rate of campus shootings only seems to be rising. Students and faculty should not have to fear for their safety as they attempt to get an education, but life rarely caters to “should.”

The reality of our situation raises a question that does not seem to have a straightforward answer. Should we allow students who meet strict regulations to carry concealed weapons on campus for their own security?

As a former member of the U.S. military, I have had a significant amount of hands-on experience with weapons. I like guns, but I also understand the serious nature of possessing a weapon in public. Even as a proponent of gun rights, my conscience will not allow me to simply answer the above question with “Yes, we should allow concealed weapons on campus.” It just cannot boil down to such a simple answer.

I trust myself with a handgun. I have trained with them extensively, and I know the appropriate safety measures that must be observed. I know I can handle carrying a firearm around.

While I trust myself, I cannot honestly say I trust anyone else.

Oregon is one of eight states that permits concealed carry of firearms at all state institutions. Oregon also happens to be the location of Umpqua Community College, where nine students were killed by a gunman in October. There were students on campus that day who were carrying, but none exchanged gunfire with the gunman.

In an interview with MSNBC, John Parker, a veteran with a concealed carry permit, told reporters he did not have the opportunity to respond when the active shooter appeared at Umpqua.

Parker said that they did not want to be confused as gunmen as they attempted to take down the actual gunman. This is an incredibly valid point. I highly doubt police would be interested in deciding which students with guns drawn are the actual threat in that situation.

The fact that students with concealed weapons did not save the day at Umpqua does not mean that firearms on campus are useless or irrelevant. If there had been a student with a concealed weapon in the immediate vicinity, they might have been able to make a difference.

Though I do like guns, I do not believe we do enough to regulate firearms in this country. This line of thinking is another area that convolutes my stance of firearms on campus.

In several states, a person can get a concealed carry firearm permit if they are 21, not a felon, pass a background check and take a course on gun safety.

These measures fail to account for the frailty of the human brain. People can crack and their mental state can deteriorate. In order to fully support a measure to allow guns on campus, routine mental health checks would have to be conducted by trained individuals for anyone applying for a permit.

I do not have an answer that solves this ongoing debate. Guns in the hands of bad people can cause harm, but guns in the hands of good people can save others.

People will always be able to obtain firearms, legal or otherwise. While I would like to be one of those good people who protect others, it is impossible for me to know if my desire to carry would not cause more harm than I can know.

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