Recent proposals to legalize concealed carry on college campuses in Texas and Florida have sparked intense debate regarding the suitability of firearms in the hands of college students. While the campus carry movement is hardly new to the US political arena, this particular round seems to have stirred up exceptionally high emotions. Specifically, gun control groups seem especially worried about legal carry on college campus, justifying this position by arguing that college students have no need for firearms and lack the required maturity to own a handgun. Let’s take a look at why this argument is misinformed, patronizing, and frankly insulting.
Whether critics wish to admit it or not, many college students already own firearms. Living off campus during my senior year, I kept anywhere between one and four firearms in my apartment and took at least ten of my closest friends to the shooting range over the course of that year. After going over some initial ground rules with my roommates, the presence of guns in the apartment never came close to presenting any safety issues. Using locks that were provided with the firearms, I secured them in my closet when out, but while I was home they were mostly accessible and ready for use. During that year, I also met at least two students who owned firearms off campus or planned to bring firearms to off campus housing at some point in the future. In each of these scenarios, the presence of legally owned firearms in student housing failed to bring about the results predicted by anti-gun groups.
Moreover, banning firearm possession on college campuses has not effectively prevented violence at universities. Incidents at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois, and Florida State all validate this assertion. Likewise, during my sophomore year at Notre Dame, a student from (highly anti-gun) New York managed to commit suicide with a firearm while on campus. Though some may point to these situations as examples of why firearms should stay off campuses, any sensible person can see that established bans on firearms failed to prevent these occurrences. From a security standpoint, university campuses are simply too large and too dynamic to effectively police. At any given college, thousands of students and faculty come and go at all times of day. It simply is not difficult for a person, student or not, to sneak onto campus with a weapon of some sort.
College students could also do without being patronized by anti-gun groups. A central point of the gun control argument in this case is that students are immature, hyper emotional, drug and alcohol addicts that are incapable of civilized behavior and are allergic to personal responsibility. I’ve seen no shortage of articles, cartoons, and editorials pushing the notion that college students spend too much time drunk to be trusted with firearms. This is an offensive narrative that undermines the real fact that most college students are very much adults, both legally and in terms of maturity. Students who commute to school from off campus housing contend with most of the same real world dangers that the rest of us face. In some situations, particularly at some inner city universities, students are even more at risk than the general public as they represent easy targets for opportunistic criminals. While everyone seems wrapped up in the collegiate “rape culture”, it is shortsighted to ignore all the other ways in which students are vulnerable.
While we are on the topic of assaults and the “rape culture”, it is worth acknowledging that many gun control advocates are exasperated by pro-gun insistence that women can use firearms to prevent sexual assaults. Firearm prohibitionists have said that groups like the NRA have wrongfully endeavored to speak for all women on campus. The irony of this position is that these very same people have taken it upon themselves to repeatedly generalize college students as a whole in efforts to argue against firearms on campus.
To pile on the absurdity, anti-gun groups have attacked the campus carry movement by arguing that drugs and alcohol are too readily available to college students. On average, a little less than half of university undergraduates can legally drink. Meanwhile, illegal drugs are, well illegal. If these items are so available to students (and for the most part they are), would that not suggest that prohibitive efforts are failing? Does it not stand to reason that a student, who wants a gun, could also obtain a firearm? We’ve already covered gun control failures as they relate to past incidents on university campuses. At what point is it time to admit that banning objects, rather than actions, has failed miserably in the collegiate setting?
Lastly, it has been said that the NRA and other firearms advocacy groups are “forcing” guns on campus. In reality, this is hyperbole at its finest. No one is pushing for compulsory carry on campus. No student will be receiving a complimentary Glock upon enrollment. This just is not reality. Instead, groups like the NRA are simply pushing to give students the option or choice to protect themselves as they see fit. If that means carrying a firearm, so be it. There is no reasonable doubt that concealed carriers will be in the minority on campus, but this does not mean they should not have the option to carry a firearm. Most students are not going to go through the trouble to obtain a license to carry and those that do aren’t likely to be the ones people should worry about.
Currently, seven states (Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin) permit concealed carry on college campuses and many others leave it up to schools to decide. Utah has even gone as far as prohibiting schools from banning firearms. Contrary to anti-gun rhetoric, armed students have not presented a problem in these places and there is no reason to believe that campus carry will be an issue in Texas, Florida, or any other state.