Guns on Campus

January 27, 2017 – Volume 27, Issue 4
Would they make colleges safer? By Christina L. Lyons


Anthropology professor Pauline Strong posts (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman/Jay Jenner)  
Anthropology professor Pauline Strong posts a sign prohibiting guns in her office at the University of Texas, Austin, on Aug. 1, 2016, the first day of the state's new campus-carry law. Texas is among eight states that allow concealed firearms on campus in certain circumstances. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia ban guns on campuses. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman/Jay Jenner)

Mass shootings at colleges and universities are spurring lawmakers in a growing number of states to consider allowing students, faculty and others to carry concealed firearms on campus. The American public is evenly split on the issue. Gun-rights supporters say shooters specifically target gun-free spaces such as college campuses. And many students say their constitutional right to bear arms shouldn't end when they walk on campus. But those opposing guns on campus say students with gun permits are not necessarily trained to stop violent crimes. They also note the unique nature of students on college campuses: Young adults' self-control brain functions are not yet fully developed, students often engage in heavy drinking and an increasing number of students are reporting anxiety and other mental health problems. All of this, say foes of guns on campuses, means firearms will make campuses less safe. Debate is also fierce over whether campus security forces should be armed and how colleges and universities can improve counseling services to identify potentially violent students.

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As students and faculty walked across the Ohio State University campus in Columbus on Nov. 28, third-year student Abdul Razak Ali Artan suddenly plowed his car onto a busy sidewalk, got out and lunged at bystanders with a butcher knife. In less than two minutes he had wounded 11 people before a university police officer arrived and fatally shot him.1

The incident sparked a campus alert message to “Run Hide Fight” and a 90-minute campus lockdown. It also prompted the Ohio Senate to pass a bill to allow the state's public colleges and universities to allow licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns on campus.

“I can legally carry a firearm in my home, at the grocery store, when I take a walk through my neighborhood. Yet when I am at Ohio State, I cannot keep myself safe,” law student Jonathan Beshears, who is licensed to carry a concealed weapon, told a prescheduled Senate hearing the day after the attack. “If someone attacks me with a butcher knife or an AK-47, I'm supposed to run away, throw things at them or maybe hide under a desk and pray.”2

But some students say allowing anyone other than law enforcement to carry concealed weapons on campuses could make them less safe. “A student militia — a student police force — is something I think we should be very wary of,” says Kaitlyn Hamby, a senior at Florida State University who has battled a similar measure in her state since another student opened fire in a campus library in 2014, injuring three students before campus police shot him.3

A mock shooting victim is helped to a triage area (AP Photo/The Pantagraph/Steve Smedley)  
A mock shooting victim is helped to a triage area during a shooter-on-campus drill at Illinois State University in Normal in March 2015. Mass shootings in recent years have prompted several states to consider allowing concealed firearms on college campuses. The American public is divided over the question. (AP Photo/The Pantagraph/Steve Smedley)

In response to several high-profile shootings on college campuses in recent years, dozens of state legislatures are considering relaxing their 1990s-era “gun-free zone” designations for public college and university campuses, allowing individuals with so-called concealed-carry permits to bring their handguns onto campus. Gun-rights advocates, conservative lawmakers and some faculty and students believe no-guns-on-campus laws infringe on their Second Amendment right to bear arms and hamper their ability to stop violent criminals before police arrive. But gun-control advocates, liberal lawmakers and many campus officials, faculty and students say college campuses are inappropriate — and unsafe — environments for handguns.

“There's a lot of alcohol binge drinking … on college campuses [that results in] a lot of spontaneous altercations,” says Daniel Webster, a professor of health policy and management at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Further, due to their undeveloped pre-frontal cortex, young people are “compromised in their ability to think through what they're doing and what the consequences are,” he continues. “You add firearms to that type of environment, and you have life-changing, life-ending kinds of consequences.”4

But Michael Newbern, assistant director of public relations for Students for Concealed Carry, says, “The question here is: Do you want the only guns on campus to be the ones that are carried there illegally?”

President Trump vowed repeatedly during his campaign to eliminate gun-free zones at schools and military bases. “My first day. There's no more gun-free zones,” Trump said in January 2016. He has been unclear, however, on whether he wants to lift the bans on guns at K-12 schools as well as college campuses.5

While every state permits some form of concealed carry, until recently most of those laws exempted day care centers, government buildings, military bases and schools. Most states barred guns on public college and university campuses after a federal law in the early 1990s designated public primary and secondary schools as gun-free zones.

State laws regarding concealed-carry at higher education institutions now vary widely: 17 states ban concealed weapons on campus; 23 states (including Ohio) allow each institution to decide whether to allow firearms, and eight states — either by law or court ruling — mandate that individuals with concealed weapon permits be allowed to carry handguns on all public campuses.6 Tennessee and Arkansas allow only licensed faculty members to carry weapons on campus.7

Many States Allow Colleges to Set Firearm Rules  

However, only Tennessee requires faculty who carry a weapon onto campus to register with campus or local law enforcement. In other places, only state agencies maintain registries of permit holders — databases that are not available to the public — so no one knows who or how many people can legally carry concealed weapons on U.S. campuses.8

Private colleges typically set their own firearms policies or are allowed to opt in or out of state laws. For instance, private schools in Texas can opt out of a new state law that mandates colleges and universities allow licensed individuals over 21 to carry concealed firearms on campus. So far, only Amberton University, in Garland, has chosen to allow firearms.9

Liberty University, a private Christian school in Lynchburg, Va., permits students and staff to carry concealed firearms anywhere on campus. Chancellor Jerry Falwell in 2013 announced that guns — previously allowed only outside of campus buildings — would be allowed inside of buildings as well, saying the change would “create a higher level of security on campus than what was found at Virginia Tech.”10

On April 16, 2007, Virginia Polytechnic University senior Seung-Hui Cho, 23, went on a shooting rampage at the Blacksburg campus, killing 32 people before committing suicide.11 Less than a year later, on Feb. 14, 2008, 27-year-old Northern Illinois University student Stephen Kazmierczak opened fire in a lecture hall, killing five students and wounding 21 others before killing himself.12

The incidents prompted Students for Concealed Carry and the National Rifle Association (NRA) to push states to loosen campus gun restrictions. Such efforts gained steam after the 2012 massacre of 20 schoolchildren and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., by Adam Lanza.13 “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun,” NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at the time, arguing for eliminating gun-free zones and arming K-12 security personnel.14

Gun-rights advocates made similar statements in October 2015, after Christopher Harper-Mercer, a 26-year-old student at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., brought five handguns and a semi-automatic rifle into a classroom and killed nine students before police shot and wounded him. He then fatally shot himself.15

Estimates vary of how many gun-related incidents have occurred on college campuses. The FBI counted 12 “active shooter incidents” — resulting in 60 deaths — at institutions of higher education between 2000 and 2013.16 Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control advocacy group, says there were 76 accidental and intentional shooting incidents on college campuses from 2013 to 2015.17

While campus-carry advocates say students should be able to carry guns under the Second Amendment of the Constitution, opponents note that when the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 struck down a Washington, D.C., law barring civilians from keeping handguns in their homes, the court said the right to bear arms is “not unlimited” and “should not be taken to cast doubt on … laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings.”18

Surveys show most students, professors and administrators oppose having concealed firearms on campus. At the start of the 2016–17 school year, hundreds of University of Texas students protested implementation of the state's new concealed-carry law.19

Opponents of guns on campus worry that gun-related accidental discharges, suicides and violent altercations could increase the number of campus fatalities. But Dave Kopel, research director of the Independence Institute, a Denver-based conservative think tank, says none of those fears has played out in Utah, which enacted campus carry in 2004 or Colorado which enacted a concealed-carry law in 2003 that did not exempt college campuses.20

Lucinda Roy, an English professor at Virginia Tech, says she would rather not legalize firearms on campus but is sympathetic to students who support such a policy because “we're not really doing anything” to directly address issues that can lead people to violence, such as increasing access to mental health care. “So we're leaving young people vulnerable, and that is inexcusable.”

Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, based in West Hartford, Conn., worries, among other things, that free speech will be chilled on campus, especially if professors begin to fear challenging potentially armed students “to change their understanding of the world and … of themselves.”

Republican Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal last year vetoed his state's permissive campus-carry measure, saying “colleges have been treated as sanctuaries of learning where firearms have not been allowed.” As a compromise, he signed a measure allowing anyone over 18 to carry stun guns — commercially available “electroshock weapons” — on campus for self-defense.21

As more states and universities consider legalizing concealed weapons on campuses, these are some of the questions being debated:

Would legalizing guns on campuses make colleges and universities safer?

Alex Stewart, state director of Florida Students for Concealed Carry, says concealed handguns on campus would “change the gamble” that a criminal is taking. “Before, you were gambling that .001 percent [of the population] wouldn't bother to violate the prohibition on concealed carry. Now you're gambling that if [they do], there will be a good citizen there who can attack … them.”

Stewart and other campus-carry supporters cite studies by gun-rights advocate and academic John Lott Jr., author of More Guns, Less Crime and founder of the nonprofit Crime Prevention Research Center, in Swarthmore, Pa., to try to prove that relaxing gun restrictions can reduce crime. Lott found in one study that murder rates fell about 16 percent and violent crime by 18 percent between 2007 and 2015 — a period when the number of concealed handgun permits more than doubled, to more than 14.5 million.22

Stewart contends there hasn't been “a single case where a permit holder on a college campus … has committed a crime.” He also says, “Concealed carriers are abnormally law-abiding citizens; we are almost never convicted of weapons crimes.”

Gun-rights advocates also cite research by Florida State University criminal justice professor Gary Kleck showing that permit holders commit fewer crimes than unlicensed holders and that many victims successfully defend themselves with a gun. “If carry permit holders never commit gun violence,” Kleck asked, “why are [opponents] worried about them being allowed to carry on college campuses?”23

Americans Divided Over Guns on Campus  

But other researchers refute such correlations between the growing number of gun permits and the falling rate of violent crime. Three researchers, two from Stanford and one from Johns Hopkins, said other factors, such as increased incarceration rates, also must be examined.24

In fact, said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center in Boston, which provides research on training to prevent violence, most firearms researchers agree that having “more guns and weaker gun laws have created a serious public health problem.”25

Already, Hemenway says, we know “for sure that the presence of a gun in the home in the U.S. increases the risk for suicide.” And a dozen studies comparing demographic differences in suicide rates have shown that “the overwhelming factor is guns,” he says, adding that when trying to stop a shooter, gun holders might shoot innocent bystanders or even undercover police responding to an incident. Others worry that police officers might mistake an armed law-abiding student as the shooter.

Drawing on data from the National Crime Victimization Surveys from 2007 to 2011, Hemenway also said that few people actually use their guns in self-defense during a violent crime.26

Little research has focused on the effects of campus-carry laws on campus crime rates. However a forthcoming 2017 report by Julie Gavran, the Southwestern director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, concludes that such laws have not reduced violent crime rates on campuses, particularly sexual assaults.27

Campus-carry opponents also warn of accidental shootings. A University of Colorado staff member in 2012 accidentally discharged her firearm, injuring herself and another woman, while removing it from her purse to show co-workers. She was fired and faced criminal prosecution, says Patrick O'Rourke, a university vice president.

Rob Jenkins, an associate professor of English at Georgia State University's Perimeter College, sees both sides in the debate. He agrees that gun-free college campuses might attract criminals who want to “shoot as many people as possible before someone shoots” them. However, he also agrees with several points in a 2016 report by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health that warned various factors of college life make concealed-carry laws more dangerous, including:

  • binge drinking, drug abuse and other risky student behaviors;

  • ongoing brain development among young adults;

  • stress, depression or mental illness, which are increasingly being reported among students.28

Jenkins and others also question the value of relying on state permitting laws, which vary widely across the nation and often have lax or limited requirements. State concealed-carry permitting requirements do not require the same level of training as that required for police officers, says Gene Deisinger, former deputy chief of police and director of threat management services at Virginia Tech after the 2007 shooting rampage.

“Many people who express an interest in concealed carry have not put themselves through that level of training,” says Deisinger, who is now managing partner and co-founder of SIGMA Threat Management Associates, an Alexandria, Va., firm that provides training for colleges on threat assessment. “Even drawing that weapon takes practice to do effectively.”

Florida State University students attend a candlelight vigil on Nov. 20, 2014 (Getty Images/Mark Wallheiser)  
Florida State University students attend a candlelight vigil on Nov. 20, 2014, after three FSU students were shot and wounded in the library earlier in the day. Gun-rights supporters say their Second Amendment rights shouldn't end when they walk on campus. Opponents say guns make campuses less safe. (Getty Images/Mark Wallheiser)

Florida State's Hamby, a member of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, says, “What if there's more than one student carrying and more than one student who thinks that they can handle the situation? … The situation gets very chaotic and very messy quickly.”

More recently, the debate has focused on protection for sexual assault victims — a growing problem on college campuses. FSU student Shayna Lopez-Rivas told Florida lawmakers she had been sexually assaulted twice, once on campus, and wants the right “to legally carry a weapon” at all times. “Criminals are already armed, and a gun-free zone sign doesn't change that.”29

But Andy Pelosi, executive director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, says most sexual assault victims on campuses know their attackers, so the woman is unlikely to be carrying her gun. And he warns, “If we start arming people, we may be arming the attacker.”

Should only faculty be allowed to carry guns?

“Let me tell you, if you had a couple teachers with guns in that room, you would have been a hell of a lot better off,” then-presidential candidate Trump said after the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015 while attending a campaign rally in Franklin, Tenn.30

The following year, Tennessee Republicans pushed through their measure allowing full-time employees of public colleges and universities to carry licensed concealed handguns on campus. The bill excluded stadiums, gymnasiums, hospitals and disciplinary or tenure meetings.31

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam allowed the measure to become law without his signature, saying he preferred that schools set their own rules. The bill's sponsors chose not to include an opt-out provision after learning most campuses would opt out.32

The NRA opposed any opt-out provision. “College campuses as gun-free zones present an environment where murderers, rapists and other criminals may commit crimes without fear of being harmed by their victims,” NRA lobbyist Erin Luper said.33

Since the Virginia Tech shooting, many states have considered proposals to arm college faculty and administrators. Supporters say staff could provide a layer of protection for students if police cannot respond quickly. Policies restricting firearms on campus invite “the wolves to go after the sheep,” Virginia GOP Del. Bob Marshall said in 2012.34

Before the Tennessee Legislature passed its bill, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro said he opposed increasing the number of guns on college campuses, as did a majority of University of Tennessee employees in a survey. One responder said: “If this passes, expect an exodus-like event of your top scholars.”35

University employee Kristina Robinette said, “Any time that you bring a gun into any place, you're going to bring awareness to yourself and make people feel on edge, but it's our constitutional right to, and I believe in that.” Some students also said they would feel safer knowing there was added protection.36

Nate Kreuter, an associate professor of rhetoric at West Carolina University in Cullowhee, N.C., says the state's permitting process for carrying a concealed firearm entails only a criminal background check and a class “in how not to get afoul of the law.” And any gun holder who “fancies themselves a hero” during a violent incident would not be in uniform, so how would police know they weren't an assailant? he asks.

Maria Gonzalez, an associate professor of English at the University of Houston, says she's concerned about depressed students hurting themselves with guns. Other faculty and students say they fear accidental shootings, such as occurred at Idaho State University in 2014. Just months after the state's campus-carry law took effect, a professor with a concealed carry permit accidentally shot himself in the foot while in a classroom full of students.37

Timothy Furnish, a history professor at Reinhardt University, a private school in Waleska, Ga., says, “A vast majority of college faculty are liberals and are scared of guns,” so most probably would not carry a gun. He supports requiring concealed carriers to undergo rigorous training.

Some faculty and administrators believe a faculty-only policy would solve the potential risks associated with allowing young people to carry concealed weapons described in the Bloomberg School of Public Health report.

“This … would greatly lessen the risk of allowing students to have and carry guns on campuses, and there are a lot more students than there are faculty,” says Webster, of Johns Hopkins. But if faculty and staff “were permitted to bring guns onto college campuses, there should be … strict rules and protocols” for securing the firearms and specific training requirements to “ensure that legal gun carriers know how to be safe with guns and know when and how to use them when necessary.”

Jenkins, of Georgia State University, says, “I don't like the thought of professors packing,” but that “responsible staff members who wish to carry, who qualify for the appropriate permits, and who are willing to undergo special training” should be allowed to carry.

Newbern, of Students for Concealed Carry, says his organization understands many people find legalizing weapons on campuses “a very new and radical idea.” So he sees a concealed-carry policy for faculty and staff as an appropriate temporary compromise.

Some professors, however, warn about liability if they carry or use a weapon. Most university policies hold gun permit owners liable for their actions, rather than the university, unless they carry a firearm to fulfill their job duties.

Would guns on campus threaten free speech?

Many administrators and faculty members worry that having concealed weapons on campus could discourage free speech.

“College campuses are marketplaces of ideas, and a rigorous academic exchange of ideas may be chilled by the presence of weapons,” wrote several educational associations, including the American Association of University Professors and the American Federation of Teachers, in November 2015.38

In a poll of more than 20,000 Kansas public college employees, two-thirds said guns on campus would “limit their freedom to teach the material and engage with students in a way that optimizes learning.”39

A prominent University of Texas scholar resigned after the Texas Legislature passed the campus-carry measure in 2015, saying it would impede schools' obligations to provide a safe learning environment. Several professors at other universities severed ties with the University of Texas, and three professors sued the university, seeking permission to bar guns from their classrooms. They said they feared the presence of weapons would “chill their First Amendment rights to academic freedom,” which involve a “robust exchange of ideas.”40

During a University of Houston Faculty Senate meeting on guns on campus on Feb. 15, 2016, a PowerPoint presentation stated: “You may want to: Be careful discussing sensitive topics; Drop certain topics from your curriculum; Not ‘go there’ if you sense anger.”41

Gonzalez, at the University of Houston, often focuses on hot button issues like the history of racism, sexuality and feminism. She says she hasn't modified her teaching since the campus-carry policy took effect but is constantly aware that any student could be carrying a weapon.

Gonzalez says she is particularly concerned about weapons on the multicultural Texas campus amid heightened tensions after the election of Trump, who vowed to deport illegal immigrants. “There's a certain heightened awareness now” about the potential presence of firearms and students' emotional state, she says.

Some Houston students who identify as LGBT feared expressing themselves freely. Robyn Foley, 22, a transgender student, said, “I can't stand up for my transgender friends, because if I do, and someone gets pissed off, all they have to do is pull out a gun.”42

Hamby at FSU says, “A lot of my classes are discussion-based classes where we share perspectives. And I don't agree with a lot of people, and we sometimes have heated debates. And that's OK because we're in an environment that encourages that.” As an activist on women's issues, cyberbullying and gun control, she says, “I would be less inclined to be as outspoken about my views” if campus carry was legal.

However, Newbern, of Students for Concealed Carry, says, in states where concealed weapons are permitted, “we are not hearing about people not being able to engage in healthy debate. We are not hearing about licensees threatening other students with their handguns because they don't agree with their position.”

The Independence Institute's Kopel also thinks evidence already shows that “people aren't going to pull out their guns when there's a heated debate over Hamlet.”

But some faculty and students worry because they don't know who is carrying. Tennessee is the only state that requires local law enforcement to maintain a registry of concealed-carry permit holders who plan to carry on campus. But nationwide only law enforcement officers are allowed to check the state registry or ask if a person carries a concealed weapon.

Mass Shootings on College Campuses  

“There's no more reason to out people who are carrying on campus versus outing those who are carrying in a restaurant,” says Jenkins from Georgia State.

Stewart of Florida Students for Concealed Carry says nobody knows who is carrying a concealed weapon — regardless of whether they are on or off campus. “Have you ever walked off campus and suddenly felt the weight of fear of freedom of expression?” he asks. “The answer is no.”

Those carrying concealed firearms fear a backlash if it were revealed that they were carrying weapons, including possibly even from instructors at grading time, Newbern says. College campuses “are hostile toward firearms and individual liberties in general,” and have limited the free-speech rights of those carrying firearms, he says.

Robert Shibley, executive director of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), says some colleges — such as Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas, and Santa Fe College in Florida — have shut down or tried to block protests by Students for Concealed Carry in which members wear empty holsters, seen as threatening by some students or administrators.

“So any kind of firearm discussion on campuses can be radioactive because of the perceived threat that comes with it,” Shibley says. “Because people seem to be threatening isn't a reason to cut off controversial expression. Campus is the place you have to have that discussion.”

Virginia Tech's Roy says she believes both sides of the debate over concealed carry on campus should be heard. Academics often disregard “as right-wing loonies” people who want to be armed in order to defend themselves, she says. “And I think that's unfair.”

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Colonial Policies

Authorities during the colonial and revolutionary eras encouraged young people to be armed and ready for militia duty, and colleges did not specifically ban students from carrying firearms for self-defense.43

Harvard, for instance, barred hunting but did not explicitly prohibit all firearms. On April 7, 1759, the faculty voted to allow students to use their firearms only in certain areas, “‘at convenient Hours,’ and … after Evening Prayers.'”44

The Second Amendment, contained in the Constitution's Bill of Rights adopted in 1791, states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Several states adopted similar constitutional amendments. But in 1813, Kentucky and Louisiana outlawed carrying concealed weapons for personal defense, and several states followed suit. However, Mississippi, Missouri and other states affirmed individuals' rights to carry arms for self-defense.45

Some colleges also began prohibiting firearms on campus. College students often exhibited unruly behavior, even rioting, to protest certain rules or punishments. For instance, students at the College of William and Mary rioted in 1807 after professors punished two students for dueling. The University of Virginia board on Oct. 4, 1824, ruled that students would not be allowed to “keep or use weapons or arms of any kind.”46

Other schools established similar rules. In 1868, Yale University barred students from keeping “any kind of firearms, fireworks or gunpowder” or firing “in or near the College yard, or near the dwelling-house or person of any member of the Faculty.”47

The rules did not always temper students' behavior. At Virginia, students each November celebrated the so-called 1836 military company riot, which they interpreted as “a victory over professorial authority,” by firing their pistols, setting off firecrackers, lighting fires and in general “caterwauling.” During the celebration in 1840, law professor John A.G. Davis was fatally shot when he tried to quell the ruckus.48

In the mid-1800s, many colleges sought to control student behavior under a doctrine, upheld by the courts, known as in loco parentis — or “in the parents' place” — based on a British common law granting a tutor or schoolmaster parental authority over a child.49 Schools began monitoring student adherence to curfews, church attendance, dress codes and other principles to uphold the “university's moral atmosphere.”

Still, not all universities barred firearms. During the 1880s, the University of Kentucky in Lexington had 176 rules governing student behavior, ranging from mandating that students walk in a soldier-like manner to barring them from visiting a saloon. However, students could have guns in their rooms and occasionally “the relative tranquility of the campus was broken by the sound of gun shots originating from the windows of the men's dormitory,” according to a history of the university.50

The National Rifle Association, formed in 1871 to improve the marksmanship of citizens who might serve in the military, began holding target shooting competitions and sponsoring gun clubs and shooting ranges, including on college campuses.51 And in 1926 it helped devise a model Uniform Firearms Act to encourage states to license citizens wanting to carry a concealed handgun.52

Through the early 20th century, colleges and universities grew in size and number, and drunken carousing became an ever more common part of campus life as rules on social decorum eased. Social historian David O. Levine wrote, “The American public expected a new elite of college students to prove their status by misbehaving in ritualized ways.”53

Campus Protests

In the 1960s, students pushed for additional freedoms on campus, but the period also saw a widespread crackdown on the possession of firearms on college campuses.

Political fervor opposing the Vietnam War and favoring civil rights spread across campuses nationwide, and a growing number of violent incidents began to occur — some related to the protests and some not.

At the University of Texas on Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, 25, an engineering student and ex-Marine, carried three rifles, two pistols and a sawed-off shotgun to the top of a tower and “launched an orgy of sniping,” in the words of the New York Daily News, in which 14 died and 32 were wounded. Students, professors and visitors sought cover behind trees, in stairwells and under desks until “police burst into the sniper's 28th-story eyrie and shot him dead after a brief gun duel.”54

An autopsy revealed that Whitman suffered from a glioblastoma brain tumor. The previous March he had sought psychiatric treatment at the student health center, where he received an hour's session and was told to return within a week and to call if he had concerns in the meantime. He never returned or called.

After an investigation, a medical panel recommended the university implement a mental health program and counseling service for students because the college years are “one of the most stressful periods” in a student's life.55

Two years later, the assassinations of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and Democratic senator and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy in 1968 spurred passage of the Gun Control Act, barring individuals who have been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or “committed to a mental institution” from buying or possessing firearms.56

In April 1969, more than 80 members of the Afro-American Society at Cornell University occupied the student union, demanding improved mental-health services for minority students and more minority faculty and professors sensitive to black perspectives. Fearing for their safety, they subsequently snuck 15 firearms into the building. Administrators agreed to negotiate with the protesters and allowed them to leave the building armed to ensure their safety — a move some later criticized as an embarrassing capitulation to physical intimidation. Soon after the incident, the New York State Legislature banned guns on campuses.57

As student protests spread around the nation, courts began to recognize the constitutional rights of university students, “sounding the death knell for in loco parentis,” said Philip Lee, an associate law professor at the University of the District of Columbia.58 Even so, colleges began to restrict guns on campus.59

In 1970, the University of Colorado banned guns on campus, allowing students to store their hunting rifles in lockers with the campus police. Generally only a handful of students did so.60 The same year, National Guardsmen in Ohio who were called to quell an anti-war protest shot and killed four students at Kent State University.

Many students subsequently began protesting the presence of armed officers on campuses, and at the University of Kentucky, faculty and students unsuccessfully demanded that police and guardsmen, called to calm riots after the Kent State shootings, not carry “weapons of violence” while on campus.61

Nationwide, campus safety became a growing concern, particularly after Jeanne Ann Clery, a 19-year-old freshman asleep in her dorm room at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., was beaten, raped and strangled by a fellow student in 1986. When Clery's parents discovered that 38 violent crimes had occurred at the university in the previous three years, they successfully sued Lehigh for not disclosing details about campus crime to prospective students.

Congress passed the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act in 1990 (later renamed the Jeanne Clery Act), which requires colleges and universities to maintain a public crime log. Congress amended the law in 2008, in part to require schools to provide details about crimes adjacent to campus.62

Also in 1990, Congress passed the Gun-Free School Zones Act, barring any individual from knowingly carrying or discharging a firearm near a primary or secondary school. The law primarily was a reaction to several mass shootings at schools, including one at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, Calif., which left five children dead and another 30 students and teachers wounded.63

The law later was challenged in court for exceeding its constitutional powers under the Commerce Clause. By the time the Supreme Court struck it down in 1995, Congress had replaced it in 1994 with the Gun-Free Schools Act, which called on states receiving federal education funds to adopt “zero-tolerance” policies regarding weapons in schools.64

Although the 1994 law did not apply to college and universities, states subsequently passed similar legislation making higher-ed campuses gun-free zones.

Campus Violence

The late 1990s was a particularly violent time at colleges and universities as well as at lower-level schools and across the nation in general. Gun-control advocates and their opponents, led by the NRA, had been arguing about whether restricting firearms would improve or worsen crime statistics.

When a 1993 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that keeping a gun in the home increased the risk of homicide, gun-rights advocates campaigned to eliminate federal funding for such studies.65

Ultimately, Congress included a provision — written by then-Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark. — in the Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 1997 prohibiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from using funds earmarked for injury prevention and control to be used “to advocate or promote gun control.” This was interpreted to mean that the CDC was prohibited from issuing grants for studies about gun violence.66

Subsequent studies were largely based on data collected by the FBI and reports issued pursuant to the Clery Act. In 1998, according to one study, 20 murders, 1,240 rapes and 2,267 aggravated assaults were reported on the campuses of four-year higher education institutions.67

In 2003, the Colorado Legislature enacted the Concealed Carry Act, which allowed permitted gun owners to carry their weapons throughout the state except in government buildings, in K-12 schools (except in locked cars) and on private property where owners had barred weapons. Although House lawmakers had defeated an amendment to exempt higher education institutions, Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar said at the time the University of Colorado could retain its weapons ban based on a Board of Regents policy that guns are “offensive” to the university's “values.”68

The University of Utah continued to prohibit concealed carry until the Legislature in 2004 clarified that a 1995 statute authorizing anyone with a concealed-carry permit to carry at any public “school” applied to public higher-education.69 In September 2006, the state Supreme Court struck down the university's ban.70

In states that continued to prohibit weapons on campus, it was unclear how many students abided by the restrictions. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reported in 2002 that 4.3 percent of the more than 10,000 undergraduate students at 119 four-year colleges reported having a firearm at school. And the gun carriers were more likely, the report said, to be males, living off campus and who binge drink and “engage in risky and aggressive behavior after drinking.”71

In November 2006, while investigating the shooting of a homeless man in an alley behind several fraternity houses at Oregon State University in Corvallis, police found more than two dozen guns — .22-caliber rifles and 12- and 20-gauge shotguns — at the Alpha Gamma Rho house and in members' cars — including the weapon used to shoot the homeless man.72

Campus-Carry Laws

The April 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech reignited the debate about firearms on campus.73

The night after the shooting, Chris Brown, a political science student at the University of North Texas, formed Students for Concealed Carry on Campus to push for relaxing the rules against concealed weapons on campus. Gun-rights organizations such as Gun Owners of America also urged universities to change their policies.74

“No one can say for sure if allowing students and faculty members to carry arms would have prevented the rampage on Monday,” said Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League. “But they wouldn't die like sheep, at least, but more like a wolf with some fangs, able to fight back.”75

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit group that advocates for gun control, responded: “If the educational community does not respond, this type of legislation may well be enacted in more and more states.”76

The following November, Students for Concealed Carry sponsored 110 “empty holster” demonstrations on public campuses nationwide. “Historically speaking, there hasn't been a single no-gun sign, law or campus policy that has saved a single life,” said a press release announcing the protests.77

The group's efforts gained momentum after the 2008 shooting at Northern Illinois University by Kazmierczak, who had bought two empty magazines and a holster through the website of the same company where Cho had bought one of his guns. The owner later offered student discounts on more than 5,400 kinds of firearms.78

After the Illinois shooting, the NRA adopted model campus-carry legislation, called the Campus Personal Protection Act.79 That year students opposed to loosening restrictions formed the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus. The Association of State Colleges and Universities and the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement also opposed campus-carry policies.80

Between 2008 and 2010, more than a dozen states introduced campus-carry bills.81 Most were defeated, but several states began to reconsider as courts began to favor gun rights. The Supreme Court's 2008 ruling in D.C. v. Heller striking down Washington, D.C.'s law barring gun ownership, for instance, overturned the high court's 1939 ruling in U.S. v. Miller, that the Second Amendment referred only to militia members.82

In 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court upheld George Mason University's gun ban, while the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the Oregon University System's ban on guns. In March 2012, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the University of Colorado's policy banning guns from campus violated the state's concealed-carry law.83 More recently, a Florida district court of appeals in 2015 upheld the University of Florida's ban on guns on its campus and in dorm rooms.84

After the 2012 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, both sides of the gun control debate ramped up their lobbying efforts, and President Barack Obama in 2013 ordered that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resume research on the causes of gun violence. But Congress repeatedly rejected his request for funds for such research.85

In 2013 at least 19 states considered legislation to allow concealed carry on college and university campuses. By then, 35 states had adopted “shall issue” laws, requiring states to grant concealed-carry permits to gun owners who meet minimum qualifications. Almost all those laws exempted schools, colleges and public buildings from places where a concealed firearm could be carried. But that was about to change in some states.86

In 2013, Kansas legalized concealed carry on campuses but allowed colleges and universities to prohibit firearms in buildings with “adequate security measures.” That law is scheduled to take effect this July. Arkansas also enacted a law in 2013 allowing faculty to carry firearms unless an institution's governing board specifically bars it.87 In 2015, California reaffirmed its ban on concealed weapons at public colleges and universities.

In 2016, Liberty University expanded its concealed-carry firearms policy to allow handguns to be kept in safes inside dormitories.88

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Current Situation

States Act

As the spring legislative season ramps up, lawmakers and university officials are again preparing to consider whether to permit concealed firearms on campus. Several measures are expected to be more likely to be adopted in light of GOP election victories in 2016.

In Florida, for example, voters elected nine House members to the state Senate who support loosening gun restrictions, and voted out Republican Sen. Miguel de La Portilla, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, who blocked a campus-carry measure last year. The new chairman, Republican Sen. Greg Steube, had sponsored last session's bill as a House member.89

And in states where legislatures have begun to loosen laws, lawmakers hope to go further. For example, Tennessee state Rep. Andy Holt, who sponsored the law that allows faculty to carry guns, said — echoing Trump — “ultimately, I would like to see 100 percent removal of all gun-free zones in public places.”90

Members of the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus say some legislatures have limited their involvement in the debate. In Florida House hearings last year, for instance, witnesses were limited to one minute each, says Kathryn Grant, director of state affairs for the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. “Without fully vetting a policy like this, how can anyone come to a conclusion responsibly?” she asks.

More than 420 colleges and universities in 42 states have joined the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. Parents also have begun to make their wishes known. The Texas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, lobbied against that state's campus-carry law, saying, “College life is already rife with academic pressures, alcohol and drug abuse; forcing schools to introduce guns into the mix is dangerous and doesn't make sense.”91

Meanwhile, a fight is expected in Kansas over the 2013 law colleges are expected to implement in July. Many opponents contend the expense of installing metal detectors and security guards at every entrance — which the law requires in order for a gun to be barred from a building — is prohibitive. One community college estimated that would cost $20 million.92

Yet, given the long-held Republican majorities in the state Legislature, the policy is unlikely to change. Bob Beatty, a political science professor at Washburn University, said Kansas lawmakers support the idea of “allow guns everywhere, and if somebody does start shooting the place up, hopefully someone will have a gun and shoot them.”93

But Newbern, of Students for Concealed Carry, says, “Lawmakers are seeing that campus concealed carry isn't causing blood to flow in the street the way the opposition makes it sound. And so they're like, why are we telling these young adults they can't do what they're allowed to do off campus?”

Nevertheless, he says he doubts many Ohio universities will opt into that state's new law. Ohio State University President Michael Drake has said only trained professionals should carry firearms on campus.94

The OSU attack last fall prompted gun-rights supporters to raise concerns about terrorism, since the White House announced that the attacker, a Somali refugee, may have been motivated “by a desire to carry out an act of terrorism.”95

Shortly afterward, an essay on the NRA website Bearing Arms said, “Islamic terrorist groups, most notably ISIS, have called upon Muslims in the West to carry out terrorist attacks against soft targets using knives and vehicles. School and college campuses are among the easiest targets available, as they contain high concentrations of people made unarmed and defenseless because of shortsighted state laws that have made most campuses ‘gun-free zones.’”96

Courts Act

The lawsuit by three University of Texas professors against the state and university is pending, although a federal judge in August rejected their plea to temporarily block the law. The professors said they fear “robust academic debate” won't happen for fear it could erupt into “gun violence.”97

The Texas law directs institutions to devise “reasonable rules” to implement the law without actually prohibiting campus carry, says Jeffery L. Graves, associate vice president for legal affairs at the university's Austin campus. Balancing the law's directives with a low desire on campus for handguns, the university barred guns in laboratories with hazardous chemicals due to safety concerns, he says. As in many other states, Texas law allows the university to bar firearms from sporting events and buildings hosting pre-K-12 programs.

But the university did not bar firearms from classrooms. “That would prohibit the biggest demographic — students — from carrying on campus,” Graves says, noting that most students commute to campus and take public transportation because parking is limited. Without a car to store their weapon in while in class, he says, barring guns from the classroom would mean barring them from campus.

Newbern, of Students for Concealed Carry, says logistics make it difficult to permit guns in some areas on a campus and not in others. For instance, several states require concealed firearms to be stored in locked vehicles while on campus, he says, making them unavailable for self-protection.

Some professors are concerned that students visiting their offices might be armed. Gonzalez at the University of Houston says some students tend to get angry during advisory sessions with a professor — sometimes to the point where the professor is tempted to call security. “Students are under a lot of stress, and especially when they are being advised,” she says.

The University of Texas permits faculty and staff with “sole occupant offices” to bar concealed firearms provided they give “oral notice” and arrange to meet gun-carrying students elsewhere. The policy also bans weapons during formal student or faculty disciplinary hearings.98

But Newbern says his group will file a complaint if any Texas professor otherwise bars firearms from their offices. “Professors can't willy nilly ban firearms in their offices,” he says. “Professors don't own their offices. The state owns that property.”

Shooting Clubs

Some gun-control advocates worry about a recent surge in interest in collegiate shooting teams. “We literally have way more students interested than we can handle,” said Steve Goldstein, one of MIT's pistol coaches.

According to the NRA, nearly 300 U.S. colleges and universities have shooting programs. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms lobbying group, has awarded more than $1 million in grants since 2009 to start about 80 programs.99

Meanwhile, Liberty University plans to open a shooting range on campus next fall as part of its “commitment to promote gun ownership and firearm sports.”100

One University of Delaware student told that classmates think club members are “crazy gun kids” who intend to “shoot up the school.”101

Stewart of Florida Students for Campus Carry is on the University of Florida Action Shooting Team, whose membership fluctuates from about eight to 20. As a team member, he says, he trains regularly and feels he is better trained in firearm tactics than most citizens and thus could handle a violent situation.

“So I see it as my duty” to carry in areas where it is permitted, he says.

Limiting Research

Hemenway of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center says the 1997 law that clamped down on CDC research on gun violence continues to limit research on the topic.

The American Medical Association urged Congress last year to resume gun research funding, but House Republicans rebuffed Democrats' efforts to remove the budget amendment that has frozen most research into gun violence since 1997.102

Nevertheless, the Harvard center, with limited funds, is analyzing the level of gun training needed to get a concealed carry permit; when, how and where gun holders' weapons are stolen; and the connection, if any, between the number of guns, gun laws and killings of and by police.

Since May 2015, Garen Wintemute, a professor at the University of California, Davis, has been leading a study on whether gun owners with a history of alcohol and drug convictions are more likely to commit violence than gun owners without such a history. Funding for that research, provided by the National Institutes of Health, continues through April.103

California has appropriated $5 million over five years for a new firearm violence research center at UC Davis. The center, announced by UC President Janet Napolitano in August, plans to offer grants for research projects and increase philanthropic support for such research.104

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Complicated Issue

Gun rights supporters hailed Trump's election as a victory for measures to loosen restrictions on guns.

For instance, Trump has said he supports a national right to carry concealed firearms, enabling those with concealed-handgun permits in one state to be able to carry firearms in all other states, potentially enabling more students and visitors at university campuses eligible to carry.105

Trump supports allowing adults at elementary and secondary schools to carry guns. But he cannot unilaterally dismantle all gun-free zones, said George Washington University law professor Robert Cottrol, because the zones were established by various federal, state and local laws. “School gun-free zones would have to be changed by an act of Congress,” Cottrol said.106

Still, others believe much more research needs to be done on the effect of campus-carry laws. “What you need is a lot of studies looking at the issue from different angles,” says Hemenway, of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center.

“We need to bring in experts” in education, campus security and mental health, along with students and parents, to thoroughly review the effect of campus-carry policies, says Grant, of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus.

It is unclear what effect campus carry will have on the ability of public universities to retain faculty, as well as students, Grant says. Some students might want to switch to a private campus that does not allow guns, she says, but for many students a public university is the most affordable.

“This year and next year these campuses will go to conceal carry [rules] … and I really hope it keeps people safe. But in the next five to seven years, the buildup of [firearms] will be there,” says Riseling of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators. She fears an increase in both suicides and homicides.

“This is a multilayered issue and it's complicated,” she says. “Campuses have these unique environments” with a higher concentration of young people than are typically found in other communities.

Deisinger, the former director of threat management at Virginia Tech, says he has seen the debate over gun control fluctuate over the years, and even the debate over campus carry, which arose 20 years ago but was drowned out by other issues. “We'll continue to talk about these issues … but … it will continue to be largely unresolved just because there are competing goals, and what satisfies one interest compromises another.”

Lott, of the Crime Prevention Research Center, says, “As more states adopt these laws, … people are going to see that the concerns are not that credible. Gradually more and more states will adopt them and the arguments will become weaker.”

Kreuter of North Carolina says he has seen mass shootings become “more inevitable” than he would like, but says instead of focusing on guns, greater attention should be paid to mental health care, both on campuses and in the general population.

“I don't want to work at a place where students are carrying guns,” he says. Nevertheless, “if students are potentially armed, then I'll be armed as well. That's my resignation, in part, to where this has gone.”

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Would legalizing guns on campus make colleges safer?


Michael Newbern
Assistant Director of Public Relations, Students for Concealed Carry. Written for CQ Researcher, January 2017

Our best and brightest congregate on college campuses to solve some of the world's most pressing problems and to prepare to do the same after they leave school. We want them to be able to focus on their work free of worry for their safety.

College campuses generally are safer than the areas surrounding them. Campus crime rates are extremely low, and not just when compared to the general population. But this isn't just about college campuses.

We don't spend all of our day on campus. We spend part of the day, including early mornings and late nights, off campus, where criminals have the upper hand. That's why any college safety program encourages students to travel in numbers at those times. And when we ban concealed guns on campus, we disarm lawfully licensed students, faculty or staff members from the time they leave home until they return.

The question for us isn't whether legalizing guns on campus would make campus safer; it's answering why we're treated differently on college campuses? If we're lawfully permitted to carry our licensed, concealed handgun to the movie theater on Friday night, why are we not allowed to carry it to class on Friday before the movie? If we're lawfully permitted to carry our handgun to the public municipal library, why are we not allowed to do so at the public university library? If we're lawfully permitted to carry our licensed, concealed handgun to the mall food court, why are we not permitted to do so in the campus dining hall? Why are we treated differently on campus? Is it because we're students?

Research conducted by economist John Lott Jr., author of More Guns, Less Crime, a has found that gun licensees 21 to 25 years of age do not commit weapons crimes at higher rates than the general population. That can't be it.

Is it because we're somehow more prone to violence on campus? The University of Texas at Austin's campus-carry working group published a report showing that not a single intentional act of violence has ever been carried out by a licensee with a firearm on a college campus. That can't be it either.

So, if campus carry may or may not make a campus safer, but definitely won't make it less safe, what justification is there to ban it?


Andy Pelosi
Executive Director, Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. Written for CQ Researcher, January 2017

The vast majority of colleges want to keep campuses gun free for good reason, yet we are witnessing a pro-gun movement that promotes legislation to force colleges and universities to allow loaded, concealed guns on campus.

Our postsecondary institutions are some of the safest places in the country. For example, a 2001 U.S. Department of Education study found that the overall homicide rate at postsecondary education institutions was less than 1 person per 100,000 students. By comparison, the homicide rate in the United States overall was 5.7 people per 100,000 persons, and 14.1 per 100,000 for persons ages 17 to 29. A 2005 Department of Justice study found that 93 percent of violent crimes that victimize college students occur off campus.

The early-adult years are among the most unstable periods in a person's life. Several circumstances coalesce to create high-stress situations for college and university students. These situations are far likelier to become dangerous, and even fatal, when firearms are present. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, suicide is the second-leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other factors characteristic of college students — such as increasing rates of sexual assault, drug and alcohol abuse, impulsivity and mental health problems — are widely recognized vulnerabilities that, combined with an increased presence of firearms, could increase the risk of violence.

Allowing concealed weapons on campus would not only increase the risk of violence but also impose an unfunded mandate on colleges, which would need to purchase new equipment, hire more security and provide training. In addition, campus law enforcement opposes campus-carry laws, and most permit holders lack the frequent and ongoing tactical training needed to use deadly force in the event of an active shooter. And legislators are not in the best position to assess the health and safety needs of every campus community.

Finally, supporters of guns on campus often cite the Second Amendment as the cornerstone for their right to carry concealed weapons on campus. The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in writing the opinion for District of Columbia v. Heller, which backed the right to possess firearms in the home for self-defense, went out of his way to reaffirm the legality of laws restricting carrying weapons in sensitive places such as schools.

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1960s–1990sViolence on and off campus leads to new gun restrictions.
1966Sniper at University of Texas kills 14, injures 32.
1968Congress passes Gun Control Act that regulates interstate commerce of firearms.
1969Armed members of the Afro-American Society at Cornell University occupying the student union force university to negotiate demands of minority students…. New York Legislature bans guns on college campuses.
1970University of Colorado bans guns on campuses, allows hunting rifles to be stored in lockers with campus police.
1990Congress adopts so-called Clery Act, which mandates that colleges report campus crimes…. Gun-Free School Zones Act designates primary and secondary schools as “gun-free zones.” States later adopt similar legislation for their public colleges and universities.
1999Two students at Columbine High School in Colorado shoot and kill 12 classmates and a teacher before committing suicide, triggering crackdowns on guns on campuses.
2000s-PresentHigh-profile mass shootings spark new strategies on campus firearms.
2003Colorado allows concealed weapons statewide, including on college campuses, but not K-12 schools.
2004Utah becomes first state to allow licensed adult students and employees to carry guns on campus.
2006Utah Supreme Court strikes down University of Utah ban on guns on campus.
2007Gunman at Virginia Tech kills 32 before committing suicide…. Students for Concealed Carry founded.
2008Student at Northern Illinois University shoots and kills five people and wounds 21 before committing suicide…. The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus forms to fight campus-carry laws…. U.S. Supreme Court rules unconstitutional District of Columbia law barring residents from keeping guns in homes, but says right to bear arms is not unlimited.
2009Arizona allows concealed guns on campus if stored in cars…. Michigan State University permits concealed guns on campus but not inside buildings.
2011Mississippi and Wisconsin pass campus concealed-carry laws…. Virginia Supreme Court upholds George Mason University's ban on firearms.
2012Colorado Supreme Court strikes down University of Colorado's ban on firearms…. Shooter kills 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., triggering calls for more guns on campuses.
2013Kansas allows concealed guns at public universities and colleges, effective summer 2017…. Arkansas follows suit but allows full-time employees at universities to carry concealed weapons but schools can opt out.
2014Idaho allows concealed weapons on campus…. Student opens fire at Florida State University library, injuring three students before being shot by campus police.
2015Texas says public universities and colleges must allow concealed firearms on campus…. Student at an Oregon community college shoots nine people before committing suicide, prompting then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to advocate arming college faculty…. California reaffirms ban on concealed weapons at public colleges.
2016Knife and car attack at Ohio State University injures 11 before campus police kill perpetrator…. Ohio allows concealed firearms at colleges, day-care centers, public areas of airports and some government buildings…. Tennessee allows public colleges and universities to permit faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns…. Florida Senate leader blocks bill to allow concealed weapons on campuses…. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoes campus-carry bill…. Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., permits concealed firearms in residence halls…. Three University of Texas professors sue university and the state for right to bar firearms from classrooms…. Missouri takes up broad gun legislation, ultimately removes provision that would have allowed full-time employees on college campuses to carry guns.

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Short Features

“We don't support the militarization of campus security.”

With high-profile shootings occurring more frequently on college campuses and gun ownership in the United States rising, more universities and colleges are arming campus police with handguns, rifles and, in some places, semi-automatic weapons.

“The more the public gets to arm, the more an institution has to come to grips with upgrading to an armed force,” says Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, a West Hartford, Conn.-based trade group representing officers at about 1,105 colleges in 10 countries.

Not everyone, however, agrees with arming campus police, particularly with semi-automatic rifles or what some call “military-grade” weaponry. “If law enforcement is armed on campus, we [believe] the training they receive should be commensurate with municipal law enforcement,” says Andy Pelosi, executive director of Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, a national organization that works with colleges and universities to oppose new so-called campus-carry laws, which allow students to carry concealed weapons on campus. But “we don't support the militarization of campus security.”

Educational institutions vary widely on whether to have “security officers” or sworn law enforcement personnel with the same training and authority as municipal police, says Gene Deisinger, managing partner and co-founder of SIGMA Threat Management Associates, an Alexandria, Va., firm that advises colleges and universities on security. Some state laws restrict whether police on public campuses can be armed.

After the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting in which 32 people died, a national organization of city police chiefs and the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics devised guidelines for better coordinating campus security and local law enforcement. The guidelines didn't mention arming campus security, but by 2012, as campus enrollments increased and fears about crime and mass shootings rose, many more higher education institutions had taken that route, according to the Justice Department.

During the 2011–12 school year about 75 percent of public, four-year institutions with more than 2,500 students were using armed officers — up from 68 percent in the 2004–05 school year. Most campus officers were conducting joint patrols with local law enforcement.1

And universities have continued to arm campus police despite student protests. At Oregon's Portland State University, students have protested a 2014 decision by the Board of Trustees to arm campus police.2 “It doesn't make me feel any safer knowing that there are more guns on a massively populated campus,” said 23-year-old sociology major Cody Shotola.3

The next year, Princeton University, responding to a series of deadly shootings around the country, said its public safety officers would have access to rifles — a move the university's student government had battled since 2008.4

Local, state and university law enforcement agencies can purchase excess military weaponry from the Defense Department. Between 2006 and April 2014, the Pentagon distributed 79,288 assault rifles, 11,959 bayonets and hundreds of helicopters and mine-resistant vehicles to local police departments across the United States, a portion of which went to colleges. More than 100 colleges have participated in the program in recent years.5

City police sometimes object to arming campus officers, particularly with semi-automatic rifles. For instance, the Boston Police Department condemned a decision by Northeastern University to arm campus police with such weapons.

“I can remember having a dialogue not long ago about whether [college police officers] should be carrying handguns,” Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans said. “Now we're talking about … whether they should have patrol rifles. Obviously, I don't think they're necessary. We can be on those campuses within five or six minutes. We're highly trained.”

But Northeastern spokesman Matthew McDonald said the vast majority of active shooter situations are over in less than five minutes, and “a quarter of them in less than two minutes. Proximity — with our department and officers being located on campus — is critical to response time.”6

Deisinger defends military-grade equipment for campus cops. “We're talking about front-line officers and detectives being able to respond and neutralize threats,” such as the incident at Ohio State in November when campus police killed the suspect in a knife attack. “So the best weapon [to do that] changes with the scenario. In some scenarios, it might be a handgun at close range. But for down the hallway or across an open campus yard, a rifle is a much better weapon.”

Besides, he says, civilians can obtain military-grade weapons at their local sporting goods store. “So if civilians, including the potential perpetrators, can have access to those weapons,” he says, it would be “foolish” to prevent campus police officers from having those same weapons.

With many students living off campus in nearby communities, jurisdictional issues can further complicate campus policing. “It's very challenging,” for campus police officers, said Robin Hattersley, executive editor of Campus Safety magazine. “I don't think it's straightforward at all.”7

As of 2010–11, most campuses officers were conducting joint patrols with local law enforcement, according to the Department of Justice, and 70 percent of campus security agencies have written agreements on coordinating with city law enforcement in handling off-campus threats and crime.8 The Major City Police Chiefs Association and the Bureau of Justice encourage such coordination.9

However, some off-campus actions by campus police have led to community tensions. Protests erupted, for instance, after a white University of Cincinnati police officer in July 2015 fatally shot an unarmed black man after a traffic stop about a half-mile from campus. The officer, Ray Tensing, was fired and charged with homicide for killing Samuel DuBose, 43, whom Tensing had pulled over for missing a front license plate. Tensing's trial last November ended in a mistrial, but the prosecutor has said he will retry the former officer.10

— Christina Lyons

[1] Brian A. Reaves, “Campus Law Enforcement, 2011–12,” U.S. Department of Justice, January 2015,

[2] “Despite ‘die-in’ protest, PSU approves arming campus police,” Fox 12 Oregon, Dec. 11, 2014,

[3] Andrew Theen, “‘Disarm PSU’ group stages walkout, protest at Portland State University,” The Oregonian, May 10, 2016,

[4] Anna Merriman, “Princeton Univ. officers to get access to guns for active shooter emergencies,”, Oct. 13, 2015,

[5] Kay Brian Melear and Mark St. Louis, “Concealed Carry Legislation and Changing Campus Policies,” in College in the Crosshairs: An Administrative Perspective on Prevention of Gun Violence (2015), pp. 70–71.

[6] Jake New, “Big(ger) Guns on Campus,” Inside Higher Ed, Dec. 10, 2015,

[7] Susan Svrluga, Nick Anderson and Mark Berman, “Should college police officers be armed and challenging people off campus?” The Washington Post, July 29, 2015,

[8] Reaves, op. cit., p. 1.

[9] William J. Bratton and James H. Burch II, “Campus Security Guidelines: Recommended Operational Policies for Local and Campus Law Enforcement Agencies,” Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, September, 2009, p. 71,

[10] Kevin Williams, Wesley Lowery and Mark Berman, “University of Cincinnati police officer who shot man during traffic stop charged with murder,” The Washington Post, July 29, 2015,; “Sam DuBose shooting: Cincinnati prosecutor to retry Ray Tensing,” CBS News, Nov “Sam DuBose shooting: Cincinnati prosecutor to retry Ray Tensing,” CBS News, Nov. 22, 2016,

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Privacy and concealed-carry laws make the job harder.

Those on all sides of the debate on whether to allow concealed firearms on campus agree on one thing: They want to prevent another shooting like the 2007 massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va., by a student with a history of depression.

But threat assessment experts, college counselors and many professors say legalizing firearms isn't the solution. They say it only diverts attention from the more complicated factors involved in keeping students safe during a time when more and more college students are reporting mental health concerns.

“I never believed the status for or against concealed carry would make that much of a difference” in deterring threats, says Gene Deisinger, managing partner and co-founder of SIGMA Threat Management Associates, an Alexandria, Va., firm that provides training on violence prevention. He says it doesn't matter in general whether any individual can carry a gun legally. “My question is, does this person pose a threat?”

Still, as James DiTulio, director of Western Illinois University's counseling center, says, “Predicting someone is going to become violent, that is very hard to do.”

Both he and Deisinger, who also is a mental health expert, worry about making firearms more available on campus without improving mental health services.

A 2015 survey of college counseling centers found that 47.3 percent of students seeking counseling are diagnosed with anxiety, 40.1 percent suffer from depression and 26.1 percent were already taking psychotropic medications.11 Those percentages were up from 2007, when 36.7 percent of students were diagnosed with anxiety, 39.4 percent with depression and 24 percent were taking medications.12

Christopher Corbett, president of the American College Counseling Association, warns that research does not show a direct connection between mental illness and gun violence. He says he is far more concerned about the “huge number of people” on campus who are stressed and depressed and “thinking about hurting themselves all the time.”

Lucinda Roy, who was chair of the Virginia Tech English Department before the massacre, warns that while professors see increasing despair among students, “mental illness of itself is not aggressive,” and all people with mental illnesses are not “homicidal maniacs.”

Other counselors and safety experts agree, and note that those assessing a potential threat must examine behavior that might indicate an individual is troubled and needs attention — either from mental health counselors or law enforcement officials — in order to prevent the person from harming himself or others.

The Virginia Tech shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, had written “dark, very threatening” material in his creative writing classes, sometimes had exhibited “bizarre” behavior and had a history of depression before enrolling at the university, according to Dr. Bella Sood, a psychiatrist at Virginia Commonwealth University who was appointed by then Gov. Tim Kaine to assess what happened prior to the shooting.13 Before the shooting, Roy had recommended that Cho seek counseling, and she reached out to various campus administrators. Other students and teachers also had expressed concerns about his behavior, she recalled in her 2009 book, No Right to Remain Silent. But communication among campus officials was uncoordinated, and the university had no procedures for reporting concerns to one centralized resource. A misunderstanding of privacy laws also interfered with information sharing, Deisinger says.

Seung-Hui Cho, 23, an undergraduate at Virginia Tech (Getty Images/VCG)  
Seung-Hui Cho, 23, an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, killed 32 students and professors at the school on April 16, 2007, before turning his gun on himself. (Getty Images/VCG)

Further, disability and privacy laws barred Roy from forcing Cho to seek counseling. And while later reports revealed his history of depression, institutions are barred from taking action against a student based only on a known or perceived mental health issue.14

Roy believes communication on the Virginia Tech campus has been much improved since then.

“The support services [today] are much more visible and much more explicit,” Roy says. “You know when you need to go to someone, and if you're sensible you know when you are out of your depth, and you try to get people in to help.”

Universities and colleges began improving threat assessment processes after a 2010 federal study concluded that between 1900 and 2008, 272 violent incidents were reported on or near college campuses, and the perpetrators had “demonstrated behaviors and/or communicated information to others that indicated that they were on a pathway toward violence.” But, in many cases, no one observing the behaviors knew whom they could or should tell, according to the report.15

Now, “it is highly likely that a centralized process would enable the gathering of much of the available information” about an individual, such as reports from other students, colleagues, professors or other administrators, says Deisinger, who was hired as deputy chief of police and director of threat management services for Virginia Tech after the shooting. He also helped develop guidelines for other colleges on how to devise threat assessment plans and teams, which include representatives from various departments and designate a single person to collect information, alerts and reports about troubled students.

New concealed-carry laws specifically bar universities from knowing the identities of gun owners who are legally bringing weapons onto campus. In Colorado, for instance, only a law enforcement officer or judge, if they have a reason to be concerned about an individual's behavior, can access that information, says Pat O'Rourke, vice president and university counsel at the University of Colorado.

Sue Riseling, executive director of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, says concealed-carry laws make safety officers' jobs even harder. She warns: “What you need in order to carry” out a shooting is an ability and an opportunity. Campus-carry laws now provide individuals with the ability, she says.

— Christina L. Lyons

[11] David R. Reetz et al., “Annual Survey,” Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, 2015, p. 14,

[12] Robert Rando, Victor Barr and Chuy Jesse Aros, “Annual Survey,” Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, 2007, p. 31,

[13] See Sandy Hausman, “Lessons Learned at Virginia Tech: What Went Wrong?” WVTF Public Radio, April 13, 2015,

[14] Tim Weldon, “Campus Violence and Mental Health: Protecting Students and Students' Rights a Delicate Issue,” The Council of State Governments, Oct. 20, 2009,

[15] John H. Dunkle and Brian J. Mistler, “Risk and Threat Assessment,” in College in the Crosshairs: An Administrative Perspective on Prevention of Gun Violence (2015), pp. 123–141.

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Klarevas, Louis , Rampage Nation: Securing America From Mass Shootings , Prometheus Books, 2016. A professor in the global affairs department at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, analyzes the link between gun violence — particularly mass shootings — and campus gun regulations.

LaBanc, Brandi Hephner, and Brian O. Hemphill, eds., College in the Crosshairs: An Administrative Perspective on Prevention of Gun Violence , Stylus Publishing LLC, College Student Educators International, and Students Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, 2015. A vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of Mississippi (LaBanc) and the former president of West Virginia State University (Hemphill) compile essays on the history of campus violence and firearms legislation, plus strategies for colleges and universities to prevent violence on campus.

Spitzer, Robert J. , Guns Across America: Reconciling Gun Rules and Rights , Oxford University Press, 2015. A political science professor at the State University of New York, Cortland, explores the history of gun regulation in the United States.


Arrigo, Bruce A., and Austin Acheson , “Concealed carry bans and the American college campus: a law, social sciences, and policy perspective,” Contemporary Justice Review, Dec. 1, 2015, Two criminal justice professors review case law, social science findings and public policy perspectives relevant to the debate on whether concealed firearms should be allowed on college campuses.

Bogost, Ian , “The Armed Campus in the Anxiety Age,” The Atlantic, March 9, 2016, A Georgia Tech professor says many university administrators and staff worry that allowing firearms on campuses will add to the stresses of college life.

Caputo, Marc , “Lawmakers debate guns as Florida leads nation in mass shootings,” Politico, Jan. 18, 2017, Lawmakers are debating a bill that would give concealed-weapons permit holders the right to carry their guns on college campuses in Florida, which saw the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at an Orlando nightclub in 2016.

New, Jake , “Campus police use of semiautomatic rifles increasingly common at colleges,” Inside Higher Ed, Dec. 10, 2015, A reporter examines a growing trend of campus police departments: obtaining semiautomatic rifles through a U.S. Department of Defense program that distributes excess military equipment.

Phillips, Dave , “What University of Texas Campus Is Saying About Concealed Carry,” The New York Times, Aug. 27, 2016, A reporter profiles University of Texas students from both sides of the debate regarding the state law permitting concealed firearms on campus.

Sandoval, Gabriel , “The Students Behind ‘Students for Concealed Carry,’” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Aug. 17, 2016, A journalist examines the rise of Students for Concealed Carry, a nationwide organization pushing for laws and policies to permit concealed carry of firearms on college campuses.

Silverman, Lauren , “Gun Violence and Mental Health Laws, 50 Years After Texas Tower Sniper,” NPR, July 29, 2016, Mental health experts discuss the potential link between mental illness and gun violence.

Reports and Studies

Dahl, Patricia P., Gene Bonham Jr. and Frances P. Reddington , “Community College Faculty: Attitudes Toward Guns on Campus,” Community College Journal of Research and Practice, Feb. 17, 2016, Three criminal justice professors survey 1,889 community college faculty from 18 states and find that the majority do not support allowing students, faculty or visitors to carry concealed firearms on their campus.

Morse, Andrew , et al., “Guns on Campus: The Architecture and Momentum of State Policy Action,” NASPA and Education Commission of the States, January 2016, Policy analysts detail state legislative actions and policy decisions of higher education institutions related to firearms on campus.

Webster, Daniel W. , et al., “Firearms on College Campuses: Research Evidence and Policy Implications,” Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Oct. 15, 2016, Eights Johns Hopkins University professors and others summarize research and data on gun violence, gun regulations and mental health and behavior of college-age students. Their conclusion: Allowing concealed firearms makes college and university campuses less safe.

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The Next Step

Arming Campus Security

Analco, Michael , “FIU's department a militarized police,” FIU Student Media, Aug. 31, 2016, Florida International University's police department acquired M16 rifles, a mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle and other military-grade weaponry through the Pentagon.

Binkley, Collin , “More campus security forces adding rifles to their arsenals,” Portland Press Herald, April 8, 2016, At least 100 college police forces have added rifles to their arsenals in the past decade, according to federal data and Associated Press interviews and records requests.

Meyer, Gage , “ASM passes legislation requesting transparency on UWPD equipment,” The Daily Cardinal, Sept. 7, 2016, The University of Wisconsin-Madison student council passed legislation urging transparency and asking the campus police department to annually update a list of its equipment.

Campus-Carry Activism

“Group holds open-carry gun walk in response to attack at OSU,” WCMH-TV Columbus, Dec. 5, 2016, Gun-rights advocates openly carried their guns in a walk across Ohio State University's campus after a stabbing that the activists said was stopped only because an armed police officer was on the scene.

Call, James , “Gun advocates rally troops for open carry fight,” Tallahassee Democrat, Jan. 6, 2017, The gun-advocacy group Florida Open Carry rallied behind SB-140, a bill that would repeal laws forbidding guns on college campuses, in airports and at government meetings.

Prabhu, Maya T. , “S.C. lawmakers look at arming public schools' staff to deter shootings,” The Post and Courier, Dec. 25, 2016, Three South Carolina lawmakers, arguing that gun-free zones attract mass shooters, announced bills that would allow concealed firearms on college campuses.

Protesting Guns on Campus

Dorman, Travis , “Poll: UT faculty oppose campus gun carry bill,” Knoxville News Sentinel, April 29, 2016, A University of Tennessee poll found that its faculty opposed allowing guns on campus, with 87 percent saying guns would not be in the campus community's best interest.

Guarecuco, Lyanne A. , “Moms Protest Bill That Would Remove Licensing for Handguns, Allow Them in Schools, Bars, Churches,” The Texas Observer, Jan. 17, 2017, More than 100 activists from Moms Demand Action marched at the Texas Capitol to lobby against a bill that would allow guns on university campuses, among other places, and one that would remove a state-licensing requirement for guns.

White, Laurel , “UW-Madison Students To Carry Sex Toys To Protest Campus Carry Bill,” Wisconsin Public Radio, Dec. 26, 2016, Drawing on tactics used at University of Texas protests in August, University of Wisconsin-Madison students plan to carry sex toys on campus to protest a bill that would allow concealed firearms on college campuses.

State Legislation

Chappell, Bill , “Ohio's Kasich Signs Gun Law Expanding Concealed Carry In Day Cares, Colleges,” NPR, Dec. 21, 2016, Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill that makes it legal to carry a concealed weapon on college campuses, but college boards of trustees would have to vote to allow guns at their schools.

Woodall, Hunter , “Legislation would allow Kansas colleges to keep guns off campus,” The Kansas City Star, Jan. 17, 2017, A Kansas state lawmaker introduced legislation that would allow state college and universities to opt out of mandates that they allow weapons on their campuses.

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American College Counseling Association
1101 N. Delaware St., Indianapolis, IN 46202
Trade association for mental health professionals and students who work in counseling.

Crime Prevention Research Center
212 Lafayette Ave.; Swarthmore, PA 19081
Nonprofit research organization that argues having more guns on campuses would make them safer.

Everytown for Gun Safety
646-324-8250; National nonprofit that advocates for gun control; provides research on gun violence.

Harvard Injury Control Research Center
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115
Education and research center that provides research on firearms, youth violence and suicide.

International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators
342 N. Main St., West Hartford, CT 06117–2507
International trade association representing law enforcement officers at colleges and universities; provides research and advocacy on campus public safety.

Students for Concealed Carry
Nonprofit advocacy group of students and faculty who support concealed firearms on campuses.

The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus
PO Box 658, Croton Falls, NY 10519
Tracks state laws and court cases.

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[1] Emanuella Grinberg, Shimon Prokupecz and Holly Yan, “Ohio State University: Attacker killed, 11 hospitalized after campus attack,”, Nov. 28, 2016,

[2] Jessie Balmert, “After OSU attack, should Ohio allowed concealed carry on campus?” The Cincinnati Enquirer, Nov. 30, 2016,

[3] Faith Karimi and Jethro Mullen, “3 shot at Florida State University before gunman killed by police,”, Nov. 20, 2014,

[4] For more information, see Christina L. Lyons, “Reforming Juvenile Justice,” CQ Researcher, Sept. 11, 2015, pp. 745–768.

[5] Lauren Carroll, “Trump said he would require schools to allow guns, Clinton says,”, Nov. 1, 2016,

[6] “Guns on Campus: Overview,” National Conference of State Legislatures, May 31, 2016,; Jackie Borchardt, “Gov. John Kasich signs bill to allow concealed carry at colleges, daycares, plus 16 other bills,”, Dec. 19, 2016,

[7] “Guns on Campus: Overview,” op. cit.; Mark Abadi, “Professors at Tennessee public colleges will soon be able to carry guns on campus,” Business Insider, May 2, 2016,

[8] Adam Tamburin, “Tennessee colleges scramble as law allowing guns on campus nears,” The Tennessean, June 17, 2016,

[9] Matthew Watkins and Madeline Conway, “Only One Private Texas University Adopting Campus Carry,” The Texas Tribune, July 29, 2016,

[10] “LU changes concealed weapons rules for permitted people,” The News and Advance (Lynchburg, Va.), April 3, 2013,

[11] Christine Hauser, “Virginia Gunman Identified as a Student,” The New York Times, April 17, 2007,

[12] “Report of the February 14, 2008 Shootings at Northern Illinois University,” Northern Illinois University, undated, p. xv,

[13] “Sandy Hook shooting: What happened?” CNN, December 2014,

[14] “NRA: ‘Only Way To Stop A Bad Guy With A Gun Is With A Good Guy With A Gun,’” CBS DC, Dec. 21, 2012,

[15] Julie Turkewitz, “Oregon Gunman Smiled, Then Fired, Student Says,” The New York Times, Oct. 9, 2015,

[16] J. Pete Blair and Katherine W. Schweit, “A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013,” Texas State University and Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice, 2014, pp. 5, 13–15,

[17] “Analysis of School Shootings — Appendix: School Shootings in America 2013–2015,” Everytown for Gun Safety, 2016,

[18] District of Columbia v. Dick Anthony Heller, 554 U.S.__(2008),

[19] See Justin Doubleday, “Students Oppose Concealed-Carry Gun Policy on Campuses, Survey Finds,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 11, 2013,; Ryan Patten, Matthew O. Thomas, James C. Wada, “Packing Heat: Attitudes Regarding Concealed Weapons on College Campuses,” American Journal of Criminal Justice, December 2013,; Aaron Bartula and Kendra Bowen, “University and College Officials' Perceptions of Open Carry on College Campus,” Justice Policy Journal, Fall 2015,

[20] Utah Code Ann. Section 53-5A-102(2); Colo. Rev. Stat. §18–72 203(1).

[21] Bill Chappell, “‘Campus Carry’ Gun Bill Is Vetoed in Georgia, With A Lengthy Explanation,” NPR, May 4, 2016,; “New stun gun law in Georgia electrifies concealed-carry debate,”, Aug. 15, 2016,

[22] John R. Lott Jr., “Concealed Carry Permit Holders Across the United States: 2016,” available at SSRN:

[23] Danny McAuliffe and Joseph Zeballos, “Professors weigh in on campus carry legislation,”, Oct. 28, 2015,

[24] Abhay Aneja, John J. Donohue III, Alexandria Zhang, “The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the NRC Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy,” National Bureau of Economic Research, Dec. 1, 2014,

[25] David Hemenway and Elizabeth P. Nolan, “The scientific agreement on firearm issues,” Injury Prevention, Oct. 6, 2016,

[26] David Hemenway and Sara J. Solnick, “The epidemiology of self-defense gun use: Evidence from the National Crime Victimization Surveys 2007–2011,” Preventive Medicine, April 21, 2015,

[27] Julie A. Gavran, “Concealed Handguns on Campus: A Multi-Year Crime Study,” Visions: The Journal of Applied Research for the Association of Florida Colleges, 2017.

[28] Daniel W. Webster, John J. Donohue III, Louis Klarevas et al., “Firearms on College Campuses: Research Evidence and Policy Implications,” Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Oct. 15, 2016,

[29] For more information, see Barbara Mantel, “Campus Sexual Assault,” CQ Researcher, Oct. 31, 2014, pp. 913–936; Lloyd Dunkelberger, “Campus gun bill advances in Senate,” Herald-Tribune, Oct. 20, 2015,

[30] Eugene Scott, “Trump: Armed teachers could have stopped Oregon massacre,”, Oct. 4, 2015,

[31] Joel Ebert, “Bill to allow guns on Tennessee college campuses heads to Haslam,” The Tennessean, April 20, 2016,

[32] Richard Locker and Joel Ebert, “Haslam allows controversial guns on campus to become law,” The Tennessean, May 2, 2016,

[33] Joel Ebert, “Bill to allow guns on college campuses advances,” The Tennessean, March 29, 2016,

[34] Amanda Iacone, “Va. bill would allow college faculty to carry guns, negating UVa regulation,” The Daily Progress, Jan. 12, 2012,

[35] Dorman, op. cit.

[36] Halley Holloway, “University of Tennessee staff mixed about guns on campus,” ABC, May 3, 2016,; Tamburin, op. cit.

[37] Nick DeSantis, “Idaho State University Professor Accidentally Shoots Self in Foot in Class,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 4, 2014,

[38] “Joint Statement Opposing ‘Campus Carry’ Laws,” Academe Blog, Nov. 12, 2015,

[39] Sam Zeff, “Kansas Campuses Prepare For Guns In Classrooms,” National Public Radio, March 22, 2016,

[40] Andrew Kreighbaum, “Harry Edwards Cuts Texas Ties Over Campus Carry,” Inside Higher Ed, Aug. 29, 2016,; Minkah Makalani, “The Many Costs of Campus Carry,” The New Yorker, Oct. 15, 2016,; Glass, Moore, and Carter v. UT, Texas, July 7, 2016,

[41] Elliot Hannon, “University of Houston Faculty Devises Pointers on How to Avoid Getting shot by Armed Students,” The Slatest, Feb. 23, 2016,

[42] Ema O'Connor, “Texas LGBT Students Say They Don't Feel Safe Now That People Can Carry Guns On Campus,” BuzzFeed, Aug. 29, 2016,

[43] Clayton E. Cramer, “Guns on Campus: A History,” Academic Questions, December 2014,

[44] “Signs of the Times,” Harvard Magazine, January-February 2017,

[45] Clayton E. Cramer, Concealed Weapon Laws of The Early Republic: Dueling, Southern Violence, and Moral Reform (1999), pp. 2–3,; Saul Cornell, A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control in America (2006), pp. 142–143,

[46] “Meeting Minutes of University of Virginia Board of Visitors, 4–5 Oct. 1824, 4 October 1824,” in “Papers of Thomas Jefferson: Early Access,”

[47] “The Laws of Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut, for the Undergraduate Students of the Academical Department,” Yale College, 1868, p. 13,

[48] Carlos Santos, “Bad Boys: Tales of the University's tumultuous early years,” UVA Magazine, Winter 2013,

[49] Philip Lee, “The Curious Life of In Loco Parentis at American Universities,” Higher Education in Review, 8, 2011, p. 67.

[50] Weston T. Thompson and Terry L. Birdwhistell, “The University of Kentucky: A Look Back,” University of Kentucky Library, 1998,

[51] Barbara Mantel, “Gun Control,” CQ Researcher, March 8, 2013, p. 13.

[52] Adam Winkler, “When the NRA Promoted Gun Control,” The Huffington Post, Dec. 3, 2011,

[53] For background, see Peter Katel, “Crime on Campus,” CQ Researcher, Feb. 4, 2011, pp. 97–120.

[54] “Ex-marine Charles Whitman shoots at victims from the University of Texas tower in 1966,” Daily News, reprinted Aug. 1, 2016,; “Press Conference: Report to the Governor Medical Aspects Charles J. Whitman Catastrophe,” Sept. 8, 1966, p. 4,

[55] “Press Conference,” ibid., p. 4; David Eagleman, “The Brain on Trial,” The Atlantic, July/August 2011,

[56] The Gun Control Act of 1968, Public Law 90–618,

[57] Ian Wilhelm, “Ripples From a Protest Past,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, April 17, 2016,

[58] Lee, op. cit., p. 70; Katel, op. cit.

[59] “Constructive Changes to Ease Campus Tensions,” National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, 1970, pp. 50–54,

[60] Carlos Illescas, “Court tosses CU gun ban,” The Denver Post, April 15, 2010,

[61] Joe LaPage, “Nunn Sued on UK Defense,” The Lexington Herald, May 7, 1970.

[62] “Our History,” Clery Center for Security on Campus, undated,

[63] Josh Richman and Mark Emmons, “Stockton shooting: 25 years later, city can't forget its worst day,” The Mercury News, Jan. 16, 2014,

[64] For background, see Kathy Koch, “School Violence,” CQ Researcher, Oct. 9, 1998, pp. 881–904; and “Zero Tolerance for School Violence, CQ Researcher, March 10, 2000, pp. 185–208.

[65] Christine Jamieson, “Gun Violence research: History of the federal funding freeze,” Psychological Science Agenda, February 2013,

[66] Ibid.

[67] “A look at campus crime,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, June 9, 2000,

[68] Carlos Illescas and Monte Whaley, “Court tosses CU gun ban,” The Denver Post, April 15, 2010,; David Kopel, “Guns on university campuses: The Colorado experience,” The Washington Post, April 20, 2015,

[69] David B. Kopel, “Pretend ‘Gun-Free’ School Zones: A Deadly Legal Fiction,” Connecticut Law Review, December 2009,

[70] University of Utah v. Shurtleff, Sept. 8, 2006,

[71] Mathew Miller, David Hemenway and Henry Wechsler, “Guns and Gun Threats at College,” Journal of American College Health, September 2002,

[72] “Frat house arsenal: Police find more than two dozen weapons, and resentment toward transients,” Corvallis Gazette-Times, Dec. 10, 2006,

[73] Hauser, op. cit.

[74] “FAQ: How was Students for Concealed Carry started?” Students for Concealed Carry,; Brian J. Siebel and Allen K. Rostron, “No Gun Left Behind: The Gun Lobby's Campaign to Push Guns Into Colleges and Schools,” Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, May 2007, pp. 33–34, footnote 1,

[75] Leslie Eaton and Michael Luo, “Shooting Rekindles Issues of Gun Rights and Restrictions,” The New York Times, April 18, 2007,

[76] Siebel and Rostron, op. cit., p. 1.

[77] See The Associated Press, “Members of Student group push for the right to carry concealed weapons on college campuses,” Arkansas Online, Nov. 21, 2007,; “SCCC empty holster protest,” Students for Concealed Carry, Sept. 24, 2007.

[78] “6 shot dead, including gunman, at Northern Illinois University,” CNN, Feb. 14, 2008,; The Associated Press, “Gun dealer linked to 3 mass shootings closes,” CBS News, June 20, 2012,

[79] “ALEC Task Force Adopts Model ‘Campus Personal Protection Act,’” NRA-ILA Institute for Legislative Action, May 23, 2008,

[80] Lisa A. Sprague, “IACLEA Position Statement Concealed Carrying of Firearms Proposals on College Campuses,” Aug. 12, 2008,

[81] “Guns on Campus,” Everytown for Gun Safety, July 9, 2015,

[82] Kay Brian Melear and Mark St. Louis, “Concealed Carry Legislation and Changing Campus Policies,” in Brandi Kephner LaBane and Brian O. Hemphill, eds., College in the Crosshairs: An Administrative Perspective on Prevention of Gun Violence (2015), p. 60.

[83] DiGiacinto v. The Rector and Visitors of the George Mason University, 704 S.E. 2d 365 (Virginia, 2011),; “Gun on Campus: Campus Action,” National Conference of State Legislatures, March 2012,;

[84] Florida Carry, Inc. v. University of Florida, Bernie Machen, Case No. 1D14-4614,

[85] Alexei Koseff, “California bans concealed handguns on college, school campuses,” The Sacramento Bee, Oct. 10, 2015,; Todd C. Frankel, “Why the CDC still isn't researching gun violence, despite the ban being lifted two years ago,” The Washington Post, Jan. 14, 2015,

[86] Osnos, op. cit.

[87] Melear and St. Louis, op. cit., p. 61.

[88] Jessie Pounds, “Liberty University to allow handguns in residence halls next fall,” The News & Advance, April 26, 2016,

[89] James Call, “Election fires up campus carry forces,” Tallahassee Democrat, Nov. 19, 2016,; Editor, “Campus Carry Bill Filed in Florida House,” WGCU, Dec. 9, 2016,

[90] Blake Stevens and Randall Barnes, “More guns on Tennessee college campuses beginning July 1,” May 5, 2016,

[91] “Texas Moms Demand Action Statement on Guns on Campus,” Everytown for Gun Safety, Jan. 29, 2015,

[92] Sam Zeff, “Kansas Campuses Prepare For Guns In Classrooms,” National Public Radio, March 22, 2016,

[93] Dion Lefler, “Kansas regents prepare to open universities to guns under new law,” The Wichita Eagle, Oct. 5, 2015,

[94] Jessica Chasmar, “OSU President Michael Drake still opposed to campus carry after knife attack,” The Washington Times, Dec. 1, 2016,

[95] Madeline Conway and Yousef Saba, “White House: Ohio State attack may have been terrorism,” Politico, Nov. 29, 2016,

[96] Scott Jaschik, “Ohio Showdown on Campus Carry,” Inside Higher Ed, Dec. 9, 2016,

[97] Tom Benning, “Federal judge denies UT professors' request to block implementation of campus carry,” The Dallas Morning News, Aug. 22, 2016,; Glass, Moore and Carter v. UT, Texas, July 7, 2016,

[98] “Handbook of Operating Procedures 8–1060: Campus Concealed Carry,” The University of Texas at Austin University Policy Office,

[99] Michael S. Rosenwald, “Gun industry's helping hand triggers a surge in college shooting teams,” The Washington Post, March 15, 2015,

[100] T. Rees Shapiro, “Gun-friendly Liberty University to open on-campus shooting range,” The Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2016,

[101] Michelle Leibowitz, “College rifle, pistol-shooting clubs under fire, underfunded amid gun debate,”, July 22, 2016,

[102] Sarah Ferris, “GOP blocks Dem attempts to allow federal gun research,” The Hill, July 7, 2016,

[103] Rita Rubin, “Tale of 2 Agencies: CDC Avoids Gun Violence Research But NIH Funds It,” The JAMA Network, April 26, 2016,

[104] “Nation's first state-funded firearm violence research center to be established at UC Davis,” UCDavis Health System, Aug. 29, 2016,

[105] Manny Fernandez and Mitch Smith, “Gun Owners ‘Can Breathe Again,’ Trump's Win Emboldens Advocates,” The New York Times, Nov. 22, 2016,

[106] Claire Caulfield, “Trump talk of eliminating gun-free schools a long shot, experts say,” The Arizona Republic, Dec. 30, 2016,

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About the Author

Christina L. Lyons, author of this week's edition of CQ Researcher  

Christina L. Lyons, a freelance journalist in the Washington, D.C., area, writes primarily about U.S. government and politics. She is a contributing author for CQ Press reference books, including CQ's Guide to Congress, and was a contributing editor for Bloomberg BNA's International Trade Daily. A former editor for Congressional Quarterly, she also was co-author of CQ's Politics in America 2010. Lyons began her career as a newspaper reporter in Maryland and then covered environment and health care policy on Capitol Hill. She has a master's degree in political science from American University.

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Document APA Citation
Lyons, C. L. (2017, January 27). Guns on campus. CQ researcher, 27, 73-96. Retrieved from
Document ID: cqresrre2017012700
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ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Gun Control and the Second Amendment
Jan. 27, 2017  Guns on Campus
Mar. 08, 2013  Gun Control
Oct. 31, 2008  Gun Rights Debates Updated
May 25, 2007  Gun Violence
Nov. 12, 2004  Gun Control Debate
Dec. 19, 1997  Gun Control Standoff
Jun. 10, 1994  Gun Control
Mar. 22, 1991  Reassessing the Nation's Gun Laws
Nov. 13, 1987  Gun Control
Dec. 13, 1985  Guns in America: the Debate Continues
Jul. 19, 1972  Gun Control: Recurrent Issue
Nov. 11, 1959  Firearms Control
Crime and Law Enforcement
Gun Control
Undergraduate and Graduate Education
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