By, Morgan Crabtree
WASHINGTON — Students and states are butting heads over whether or not colleges should allow the members of their campus the right to bear arms.
In the course of the last 13 years, 10 states have passed legislation that, in some way, allows concealed weapons on college campuses. Utah was the first state in 2004 to legalize campus carry, making it mandatory for public universities to allow their students to carry a weapon on their campus. Following Utah came nine other states, the most recent was Texas in 2016.
However, it is not up to the students nor the administration of the school to dictate this protocol. The University of Texas is a public institution, funded by the state, which requires the school to allow permitted students to legally carry a weapon on campus.
“It does really worry me to think that someone sitting next to me could have a gun.” Sara Buffington, freshman at The University of Texas said. “I think what scares me the most is that I don’t know who has a gun on them because it’s concealed. I think overall having guns on campus is a bad idea.”
The passing of the recent legislation led to the resignation of Frederick Steiner, the dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Texas. The president of the University has also spoken out against the policy passed in 2016.
There are three different forms of campus carry. Mandatory, which mean once the state legalizes campus carry, public college campuses have no right to ban it. Institutional, which allows universities and colleges to choose whether or not to ban campus carry. And Non-permissive, which means that campus carry is legally banned from all campuses, private and public, in that particular state. To date, nine states are considered Mandatory, 21 states are considered Institutional and 22 states are considered Non-permissive.
Private institutions such as Baylor University, located in Waco Texas, has the right to prohibit guns on their campus regardless of state regulation. Madison Walker, a senior at Baylor, said she believes guns should be allowed on campus.
“I think that I would feel safer with someone having a gun in the room if someone dangerous were to come in,” Walker said. My mom said that the safest she’s ever felt was when she was in Israel and everyone was carrying around AK-47s on their backs. People are less likely to be violent with guns if they know there’s a chance they’ll be shot.”
Walker suggested that since Baylor is a private campus, a solution to the hesitation of allowing guns on campus is that the school has the ability to mandate counseling sessions for those who carry a weapon to ensure they are and continue to be mentally sound.
“Although I might not agree with Baylor’s decision to continue to ban guns, I do think it should be up to the school,” Walker said. “But public institutions get government funding, so schools like the University of Texas, should have to abide by state regulation.”
Joe Ross, a long-time member of the National Rifle Association, also believes that state funded institutions should not have the ability to opt out of allowing guns on campus.
“If they want private funding, then they can run like a private institutions,” Toss said. “so long as they are a public institutions, they are at the liberty of wherever they drive from their public money, whether that be state money or federal money.”
Contrary to Walker’s opinions in regards to feeling safer with more guns present, John Hopkins University published a report in October of 2016 that debunked the idea of more guns leading to less crime. Hopkin’s report stated that out of all of the mass shootings that took place between 1996 and 2016, only 12% of these shootings took place in a gun-free zone. In other words, the notion that gun-free zones lures mass shooters is inaccurate.
“People make the argument that the shooter could have been stopped if people were armed, I think that is a flimsy argument.” Antonia Untalan, a freshman at the University of Texas, said. “It is easy to get a license in Texas, so it makes me uncomfortable knowing that anybody can be armed, even if they are the nicest most sane person I know, accidents still happen.
The report by John Hopkin’s studied 85 incidents of shootings, whether intentional or not, between January 2013 and June 2016. The study showed that only 2.4% of these incidents involved a mass shooter, while 12% of the incidents were accidental or unintentional. A majority, 45% of the incidents, were “interpersonal disputes that escalated into gun violence.” Another 12% of the 85 incidence were found to be due to suicide or murder/suicide.
Futhermore, Mental Health America of Texas, an organization working to promote mental health and improve care and treatment for Texans who have mental illnesses, published a report that states “because alcohol and drug use are significantly present on many college campuses, the risk of violence on campus is high; when guns are present on college campuses, the risks of harm and violence become increasingly lethal.”
“Accidents happen, especially in college, especially when alcohol is involved, I can only imagine adding a gun to that equation,” Untalan said.
On the other hand, a Washington D.C. business consultant and long time member of the National Rifle Association, also known as the NRA, Joe Ross, believes that guns should be allowed on campus.
“I think it is absurd that guns are not allowed on campuses,” Joe Ross, member of the NRA since 2013, said. “Frankly, gun owners are the most law abiding citizens in the United States because their gun rights are so important to them. They are not willing to break even the smallest laws and jeopardize.”
According to the The National Rifle Association’s website, the NRA is an organization whose “objectives include protecting the right to keep and bear arms, furthering the shooting sports, marksmanship and safety training.” The NRA has also been a longstanding financial supporter of many members of the Republican Party.
“The biggest donor for Donald Trump’s campaign was the National Rifle Association, they went all in and they went all in early.” John Schwegman, a political researcher for Every Town for Gun Safety, an organization raising awareness and funds to support more education on the handling of guns. “What I fear will happen is this money will reflect the policy of the NRA’s needs and wants as opposed to the general population.”
According to Open Secrets, a non profit, nonpartisan research group, Donald Trump received $30.3 million in funding from the National Rifle Association during the 2015-2016 election. The NRA spent another $20 million six other republican Senators, in hopes to get the men a seat in Congress.
Critics believe that the NRA has an undue level of influence on the political system because of the vast amounts of financial contributions they are able to make, however, Ross believes that is just how politics works.
“To suggest that the the NRA is hijacking the American Political system just shows how fundamentally misunderstood lobbying and the political system works. The point of a lobbying group is to influence on behalf of the will of people’s constituents. Just because people all of the sudden believe in something that a rash of the majority of Americans don’t believe in, the like the second amendment, doesn’t give them the right to demonize the only organization trying to stand up for a right those people believe in.”
Within the first two months of Trump’s presidency, the president signed a bill to overturn an executive order made by the Obama administration that was in place to prevent persons with mental health issues from obtaining a proper guns license.
However, according to the NRA, this bill was a positive decision. The website reads that the president’s “repeal of an Obama-era Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that would have resulted in some 75,000 law-abiding beneficiaries losing their Second Amendment rights each year.” However, many people believe that it is just a way to avoid giving guns to people who have been diagnosed with any form of mental illness.
The concern of mental health is already an issue on college campuses, however combining this concern with the ability to carry a gun on campus seems to pose an issue within itself.
According to the Mental Health America of Texas report, suicide prevention includes limiting the resources in which a person can complete the suicide, however with the access to guns comes the ability to carry out the suicide at an easier rate.
The report states:
“Increasing the prevalence of guns in an area with a large concentration of individuals in an age group associated with undeveloped judgment and risk assessment cognition, higher suicide rates, and higher substance abuse rates is not prudent. Providing better mental health and substance abuse prevention and intervention services is a safer and more effective method for deterring violence.”
However, NRA members, such as Joe Ross, do not believe it is the gun that causes the accidents, but instead the lack of understanding and knowledge.
“It used to be a part of civics that children were trained for firearm safety, it used to happen as early as middle school. You know we don’t have that anymore so it is up to kids or parents who are interested in guns to educate themselves,” Ross said. “Mental illness aside and alcohol aside, there is a a degree of personal responsibility and individual freedom that we have to respect. I’m telling you back in 1776, nobody was having any apprehension of carrying firearms around while under the influence. I think there needs to be more focus on preparing and educating kids, as young as middle school.”
Ross continues by making the point that firearms are no longer the only way to truly hurt someone.
“There are cases all around the world where people are using knives or machetes, all sorts of vehicles and home made bombs, it seems that the ability to legally carry a firearm is the only way to combat these other measures,” Ross said.
Some students at the University of Texas are also having trouble understanding the need for campus safety officers to obtain a gun.
Although seemingly rare, a University of Cincinnati campus officer was charged for fatally shooting an unarmed black man after a traffic violation.
“I do not think that safety officers should be able to carry guns because I think it can lead to a lot more unnecessary deaths and an increase in police brutality.” Untalan said. I do think having mace or Tasers would be good to have to subdue people, but guns are overkill in my opinion.”
Protests for and against concealed carry are surfacing all across the nation. The University of Texas Students have started a campaign to boycott concealed carry.
“Students are actually carrying around dildos all over campus claiming it is their right to bear arms, and by arms they mean dildos,” Schwegman said. “They are making fun of a serious issue because that’s how crazy it is to have guns on college campuses.”
The campaign that Schwegman is referring to is known as ‘Cocks, not Glocks,’ where students are carrying dildos around campus in an effort to protest the new gun law.
“Even just surveying an average class lecture hall I would say at least 50% have the ‘Cocks not Glocks’ stickers on their laptops,” Untalan said in regards to the campaign against concealed carry.
Students for Concealed Carry, a student organization that promotes the access to guns on campus at the University of Texas, protested against the ‘Cocks not Glocks’ campaign by holding up signs that say to “Co-exist,” with two crossed guns in the middle of the word.
“Gun violence is so prevalent in our country and has even occurred on our campus, so I do not think that it is a good idea at all.” Untalan said. “ I am very much against this legislation and I do not think that weapons have a place on my campus.