Students for Concealed Carry believes there is a solution to deter mass shootings on college campuses: allow students to carry firearms.
Founded in 2007 in the dorm room of University of North Texas student Chris Brown, Students for Concealed Carry has grown to more than 43,000 members and 350 campus chapters in all 50 states. Its members include students, faculty and university staff.
Students for Concealed Carry is a non-partisan, grassroots organization whose members believe that people licensed to carry concealed firearms should be able to carry the weapons on college campuses-parallel to the state laws that allow them to carry firearms virtually everywhere else.
According to the National Conference of State Legislators Overview of Guns on Campus, 49 out of 50 states permit people to carry concealed firearms . while D.C. and Illinois laws prohibit it unless you are in law enforcement. However, of those states that do allow people to carry concealed firearms, 21 ban carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses. Twenty-three states allow the decision to ban or carry weapons on college campuses to be made by the university.
“In states where concealed carry on college campuses is prohibited by law, we work with legislators to change the statutes,” said Students for Concealed Carry Eastern Regional Director Erik Soderstrom. “In cases where it is not prohibited by law, we seek to change campus policy at private institutions, and we advocate legislation to preempt public campus from passing policy to prohibit the exercise of this right.”
Due to new legislation and court rulings, five states now have provisions allowing concealed weapons to be carried on campuses of public colleges and universities. . The states are Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.
“When we looked at crime data for Colorado State University in the years before and after concealed carry became legal on their campus, we saw across the board reductions in crime on campus after concealed carry was introduced,” Soderstrom said..
Based on an analysis of crime statistics done by Colorado State University, there has been a decrease in crime on the campus since the 2003 law passed to allow carrying of concealed weapons. The study looks at reported crime on the campus from 1998-2008. In 2002 the year before the law passed there was a total of 765 reported crimes on the college campus, in comparison to the 223 reported crimes in 2008.
Most colleges and universities have police departments that are responsible for protecting the campus, its students and administrators. However, Students for Concealed Carry use Virginia Tech as an example of the damage that can be done while waiting for campus police to respond to an active crime scene. In a matter of seconds, a gunman can kill innocents while police are en route.
“Campus police cannot be everywhere at all times and numerous court rulings have established that police have no duty to protect, even if they know a crime is in progress,” said Soderstrom. “Our goal is to allow the same licensed, trained individuals who are already allowed to carry off campus to have the same means of self defense available on campus.”
Based on a 2008 study done by Campus Safety Magazine, 64 percent of college students gave greater attention and respect to campus police after Virginia Tech and indeed, wanted them around for protection and safety. In spite of campus police officers’ sometimes slow response to emergencies, it is evident that their presence on campus is a must.
Howard University Police Chief Lee James works to provide that wedge of protection for students and staff. But he does not think that allowing students to carry concealed weapons should be part of the protective shield.
“The armed officers train on a regular basis to better protect the university community and interface with local law enforcement on the best tactics and strategies to employ in the events on an armed confrontation,” James said. “I do not believe allowing students to carry concealed weapons should be allowed, the increased danger to the university community at large increases exponentially with more weapons on campus.”
Although there are no established chapters in D.C., it is evident by the organization’s high national membership that there are many college students who advocate for this cause. However, some feel allowing students to carry concealed firearms should come with stipulations and tight restrictions.
“I think that allowing concealed carry on college campuses will give students the option to defend themselves in an emergency,” said Southern University Law student Duran Davis. “However, I think that those students should be required to take extra courses like ‘Gun Safety on College Campuses’ and pay extra fees when going through their gun licensing process. I think this is a good way to control the amount of weapons on the campus and the awareness of those students carrying weapons.”
One of the main functions of Students for Concealed Carry is to dispel what they say are myths regarding allowing people to carry concealed firearms on campuses. One such myth, they say, is that allowing concealed firearms increases crime. However, members of the organization argue that before concealed carry was introduced at the state level, the same people argued that there would be shootouts-over parking spaces, and that was not so. Neither are there shoot-outs on the college campuses that do allow concealed carry.
“Our primary concern is legalizing self-defense on college campuses,” said Soderstrom. “When crimes occur on college campuses where the most effective means of self defense is currently prohibited (concealed carry by students), it reaffirms our commitment to our mission. The status quo has failed; it’s time we tried changing it.”