SamWhited|blog

Weapons carry on college campuses

The NCSL recently released a report that gives a broad overview of laws relating to weapons carry on college campuses. According to their report, this year alone 19 states introduced legislation to allow concealed carry on college campuses, two of which have already passed (Kansas and Arkansas). Georgia, my home state, has had similar bills die in committee in recent years but has decided to try again with HB 29 which is currently inactive until 2014.

As pointed out by The Emory Wheel, counter arguments used against the bill often employ flawed or narrow logic. Would the students at Sandy Hook have been saved if weapons carry was allowed? Probably not. The fact that it’s not a college campus and so isn’t covered by the bill anyways doesn’t really matter; the fact that there would be a lot fewer people carrying at an Elementary school where the students are too young to carry a sidearm anyways is more relevant. However, this argument is still missing the point. Allowing carry may or may not prevent a future tragedy like Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech (allowing or barring concealed carry is a power granted to each university under Virginia state law) but—in disagreement with the aforementioned article—it may prevent many smaller crimes.

In January–May of 2013 there were 3 cases of robbery, 3 cases of aggravated assault, and 16 cases of burglary on Georgia Tech’s Atlanta campus (and many, many more in the area surrounding campus). Criminals target college students (PDF — see “GTPD Evaluates Campus Crime Practices”, pgs. 9, 12) because they know they’ll have valuable equipment (laptops, media players, phones, etc.) and will be unarmed. Even if only 1 in 100 students actually owns and carries a firearm, we remove a potential mugger’s surety that their victim will be unarmed. Allowing weapons carry protects everyone, not just those carrying weapons. No responsible person wants to pull the trigger; hopefully the fact that they could be carrying (even if the firearm isn’t visible to the mugger) will be enough of a deterrent. If not though they will at least have a chance of defending themselves.

If nothing else, we should protect the right of students and faculty to defend themselves when off campus. Many students at Georgia Tech walk home from the library at ridiculously late hours every day through a neighborhood of ill repute just north of campus known as Home Park. At the very least these students should be able to check their sidearms into a locker at the police department before entering campus so they can pick it up on their way home at the end of a long day and don’t have to sacrifice their personal safety to cram in a few more hours study time.

Another (oft-quoted) refrain is that college police forces won’t be able to tell the good guys from the bad when rushing to a future scene like the Virginia Tech massacre. How is this any different from a shooting in the middle of the city (where there may even be a higher density of people and a higher chance that several people carrying weapons will be nearby)? Just because you allow college staff and students to carry doesn’t mean all of them (or even a significant portion) will go out the next day and apply for their WCL. Also, this is a risk responsible licensed individuals take and should attempt to mitigate if found in a situation like the above. If this is deemed to be a problem, better training (for all involved, police and WCL holders) is the answer.

Every day that our nation’s students are forced to walk home late at night without the ability to defend themselves is a day our liberties suffer. If you’re a resident of Georgia (or one of the many other states that still unnecessarily restricts weapons carry) consider writing to your representatives and asking them to support lifting weapons carry restrictions in your state.

Other Georgia bills

Update: Recently, Georgia HB 60 was passed into law making it legal to carry in many places where it was previously prohibited (including schools that have not specifically disallowed it).