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Campus Carry

Two words in the same sentence in 2018 will cause instant looks of cringe:  Firearms and schools.

Policy has been determined throughout the nation that firearms shall be prohibited on the grounds and inside buildings of primary education at the behest of state legislatures.  Firearms owners have to be 18 to purchase a long gun and 21 for handguns, which brings us into higher education.

Many children grow up with a firearm in the house, whether because one or both parents have them in the course of employment, or because someone in the family is an enthusiast.  With the potential exception of the northeast, it’s part of the culture in many ways.

Once kids graduate high school, or turn 18, most state’s laws allows them to buy a long gun if they pass a background check, and in some states, take lessons and acquire a firearms permit.  If their parents were armed wherever they went, the child became accustomed to it.  They may have grown up with the rhetoric of “I don’t go anywhere where I can’t bring my gun.”  Once they’re old enough to be independent, going somewhere without an armed parent nearby may incur a strange feeling that something is missing.

Since college campuses, public and private, are attended by adults that are only enough to buy firearms, naturally, they may want to follow in their parent’s footsteps and arm themselves for personal defense.  Every college campus around the country now has an armed police force, or receives law enforcement assistance from a nearby municipality.  Much like municipal police are tasked with patrolling the area, monitoring crime, and enforcing all applicable laws, campus police do the same thing at the campus level.

The attitude at the highest levels is that “we employ a police force so that you can focus on studying and graduating,” while others may have a unique situation where they don’t feel that police are enough.  Many students stay on campuses into the late hours, whether for recreation or academia.  While the administrative attitude is noble and does keep a campus predominately safe, they can’t be everywhere at every time.

Further complications can arise for residents of a campus; you make new friends, you become more social, and over time, you have people over.  College kids are supposed to have new experiences and meet new people.  Of course, meeting new people can involve meeting sketchy characters, or people with harmful intentions; throw alcohol into the mix, and you could have a rough situation.

For the most part, campus police officers do a great job at keeping campuses safe.  Like anything else, their job is to keep the campus, its events, and its visitors safe, but ultimately it’s the job of the students to be safe.  One can be completely cognizant of their surroundings, park in well-lit areas, and use callboxes when they feel threatened, but when the perpetrator comes out of nowhere and strikes, you wish you had something to defend yourself.

Among the supporting arguments for campus carry:

  • Police can’t be everywhere and we can’t expect them to be there within the microsecond that we call them.
  • Since these buildings are owned by the state, administrators shouldn’t be infringing on our rights.
  • When tragedy strikes, there’s often no time to wait for the police; someone had to act immediately.

Among the arguments against campus carry:

  • More guns haven’t made our campuses safer, as evidenced by the school shootings in our past.
  • Armed students could lose their temper when in a hostile or otherwise heated situation.
  • Armed students can make it difficult for law enforcement to separate the good guy(s) from the bad guy(s) in a bad situation.

As shown in the map below, more than three-quarters of states have passed legislation forbidding going armed on any public campus.  Some states have legislation filed that would legalize it, likely subject to some form of regulation.

A few notes about campus carry legislation:

  • If a ruling is handed down from a court, don’t expect the policy to change overnight.  While many activists recommend keeping a copy of the ruling or the applicable statute on your phone, statutes are only helpful to lawyers and rulings are only helpful to administrators.  Administrators are well-aware of the results and lawyers are expensive.
  • Keep an eye on the wording of the law and how it applies.  Some states have legalized it for those that have gun permits, and other states have allowed it on the grounds, but not in buildings.
  • If you decide to defy the law and a police officer approaches you, don’t get defensive; after all, if you know you’re carrying, someone else probably saw it, and made the call.  Understand that the courts have upheld public universities as “sensitive government buildings,” and will always use the public safety test.  Take the opposing fight to the legislature, not to the courts.
  • A few states are neither red nor green; locating the exact law, or an official interpretation of the law proved difficult.

Legislative map

States in red have legislation prohibiting being armed on college campuses, both private and public.  As you’ll see on the map below, some legislatures have left it up to the individual institutions to create their own policy.

States in green have exempted higher education from their prohibitive legislation, but still leave it up to private institutions to make the decision for themselves.