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Campus carry denotes the sets of laws and regulations that provision for the possession of guns in university and college campuses within the US. Different states have different campus carry laws that determine whether the possession of guns in campuses is allowed or not. Though debates revolving around the campus carry issue commenced roughly 20 years ago, the first states to allow campus carry were Colorado and Utah in 2003 and 2004 respectively. In numerous other states, campus carry remains outlawed or allowed under certain circumstances. Recently, the states of Texas and Georgia passed legislation allowing campus carry. It is worth noting that key events such as mass shootings in the past served to revive debates on the issue of campus carry. While the issue remains highly controversial, the merits of campus carry as outlined by proponents outweigh the demerits of the practice.
Recent events in the United States have served to revive the debate on campus carry at state level. State legislators have sought to legalize campus carry in one form or the other following the spate of mass shootings in recent years. Though recent mass shooting in recent years have transpired outside campus grounds, the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 influenced the opinions of lawmakers profoundly. Bennett, Kraft, and Grubb (2012), observe that since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, where a shooter killed a total of 32 students, as well as faculty, states have increasingly agitated for a comprehensive review of extant firearm laws. Another key incident that increased interest in campus carry laws among state legislators was the 2008 shooting at the Northern Illinois campus grounds that claimed the lives of six individuals (Bennett, Kraft, & Grubb, 2012). Notably, the recent spike in mass shooting incidents in the United States has increased calls for the legalization of campus carry in the states where the practice is currently illegal. One such incident was the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting incident that was the deadliest in US history. Though the US congress is yet to make any legislative changes to gun laws, active legislative discussions concerning areas where concealed carry is allowed and those that constitute gun free zones are ongoing.
Forms of Campus Carry
Campus carry may assume different forms which include mandatory, institutional, as well as non-permissive. Under mandatory campus carry, there are existing state laws that permit licensed students, as well as faculty members to carry firearms to campus premises in a concealed state. In addition, it is the prerogative of individual institutions of higher learning to exercise discretion in determining the areas within the campus that are gun free. In some institutions, for instance, students are not allowed to carry firearms into dormitories since there is no storage area, while in others, students are only allowed to leave guns in locked cars at the parking lot. In 2013, 19 states in the US introduced campus carry bills in their respective legislative assemblies while in 2014, 14 states did the same (Guns on Campus: Overview, 2017). In 2016, the US state of Tennessee introduced and passed a piece of legislation that permits faculty members in institutions of higher learning to carry guns soon after issuing a notification to law enforcement authorities (Guns on Campus: Overview, 2017). Moreover, in 2015, the state of Texas enacted mandatory campus carry laws. More recently, in 2017 the states of Arkansas, as well as Georgia also enacted mandatory campus carry laws (Guns on Campus: Overview, 2017). Following the July 1st implementation of the campus carry law in Georgia, licensed gun holders in the state were given the permission to carry concealed gun in certain areas within campus grounds. Moreover, the law did not necessitate institutions of higher education in the state to set aside facilities for the storage of guns or put up signs depicting gun free zones. Currently, there are a total of 10 US states that have instituted mandatory campus carry laws.
Campus carry laws may also be categorized as institutional. Institutional campus carry states give individual institutions of higher learning in the United States the authority to determine whether concealed carry is allowed within campus grounds or not. In instances where institutions allow concealed carry within their grounds, it is up to the institutions to designate gun free zones and areas where guns are permitted. In late 2016, Ohio’s governor signed a bill that legalized institutional campus carry into law (Guns on Campus: Overview, 2017). Currently, a total of 23 US states give individual institutions of higher education the authority to permit or ban the carrying of concealed weapons in college, as well as university campuses (Guns on Campus: Overview, 2017). Notably, individuals granted the permission to carry concealed firearms within campuses must satisfy certain conditions. In most states, the individuals must be at least 21 years, have no previous felony convictions and have no history of mental illness (Bennett, Kraft, & Grubb, 2012). The other key category of campus carry is non-permissive campus carry. Under non-permissive campus carry, the carrying of firearms within campus grounds is strictly prohibited except under certain circumstances. As of 2017, 16 US states have non-permissive campus carry laws in place.
Arguments for and Against Campus Carry
Proponents and proponents of campus carry have put forth different arguments over the years to justify or oppose the issue of campus carry. Proponents of campus carry contend that a ban on campus carry infringes on the rights of US adults to bear arms under the second amendment of the US constitution. In addition, proponents of the practice put forth the argument that allowing students, as well as faculty to carry guns into campus premises is crucial to their self-defense in the event of a gun attack. In the 2007 Virginia Tech gun attack, for instance, some argue that the number of casualties would have been significantly less if campus carry would have been in force. Proponents of campus carry also contend that the legalization of campus carry reduces the chances of a mass shooting occurring within the confines of college and university campuses. This is primarily because potential attackers are cognizant of the fact that students possess the potential to retaliate using their own firearms. In the event of a shooting attack, even frightened students could gather the courage to shoot back at the attacker. As such, allowing students, as well as faculty members to carry firearms into institutions of higher education, subject to strict background checks, constitutes a critical deterrent against would be attackers. Proponents of campus carry also suggest that campus carry is critical in light of the current upsurge in gun violence and mass shootings in the United States. Failure to lift bans on campus carry in several US states put the higher education students in the respective states at high risk and enhances the vulnerability of individual institutions to attacks.
Opponents of campus carry have also put forth a vast array of arguments to justify their opposition to the practice. One such argument is that campus carry laws could inadvertently lead to increased violent crime in university, as well as college campuses. The argument is based on the premise that the higher the number of guns at any given place, the higher the probability of gun-related violence. The opponents also argue that campus carry could be a distraction to the learning of students. This is primarily because the very recognition that certain students in the classroom setting could be carrying a concealed firearm may cause unnecessary jitters among other students. In addition, opponents of campus carry contend that the legalization of campus carry could serve to increase suicide rates among students. This is despite evidence to the contrary in the different states where campus carry is legal.
To conclude, it is clear that the merits of campus carry outweigh the demerits of the practice. In addition, several key events over the last 10 years have played a critical role in the revival of the debate concerning campus carry. One such event as the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting that claimed 32 innocent lives. Campus carry assumes three forms, namely, mandatory, institutional, in addition to non-permissive. Mandatory campus carry is the least common form of campus carry since only 10 US states obligate institutions of higher learning to allow students to carry concealed firearms into campus premises. Ultimately, state legislative bodies should review laws relating to campus carry in order to adapt to current circumstances.
- Bennett, K., Kraft, J., & Grubb, D. (2012). University faculty attitudes toward guns on campus. Journal of Criminal Justice Education, 23(3), 336-355.
- Guns on Campus: Overview, (2017). National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/education/guns-on-campus-overview.aspx