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Violence on college campuses: Is concealed weaponry the answer?

I recently learned of the group Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. The SCCC is a nation-wide organization whose members are working to lift the ban on concealed weaponry on college campuses.

Their official Web site, concealedcampus.org, explains why the group formed: “In the wake of recent school shootings, such as the massacre at Virginia Tech, SCCC contends it is now abundantly clear that ‘gun free zones’ serve to disarm only those law-abiding citizens who might be able to mitigate such tragedies.”

Each state has laws concerning the purchasing and carrying of guns. According to the SCCC Web site, people who are concealed carriers can carry their guns into movie theaters, churches, malls, office buildings and other public places.

The SCCC argues the outcome of the Virginia Tech shootings and other campus shootings could have been different if people were allowed to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.

The SCCC is correct – there is no way of knowing what the outcome would have been at Virginia Tech or most recently, Northern Illinois. Perhaps lives could have been saved, perhaps not.

I am willing to leave that unknown. I do not think people should be allowed to carry a concealed weapon on a college campus for many reasons. Here are a few:

Carrying on campus could promote non-peaceful confrontations, chaos during an on-campus crisis and strict and tense residence life. I do not think guns are the cause of all non-peaceful confrontations, and I do not believe that guns should be banned completely.

To clarify this, I am from a family that hunts. I have shot a gun while hunting, and my family owns guns. A hunter’s safety class is required before anyone hunts. I have completed the course. My parents enforced and supplemented the proper time for, storage of and safe handling of guns. We use the guns strictly to provide food for our family, and they are locked in a case when not being used for hunting. Never would there be a situation where I would want to bring a gun back to campus for extra protection.

When faced with conflict, people have the option to respond violently. A person carrying a concealed gun may not have intentions of firing it at anyone, but it could still be used as a threat. Accidental shootings, as a result of misuse of a gun or careless handling, could take place in classrooms, residence halls or at athletic events.

Consider the event of an intentional campus shooting. It seems students, faculty and police could become confused as to who the perpetrators and protectors are. The situation would be chaos.

If Pennsylvania changed the rules of concealed carry, public colleges and universities would have to change their own policies.

If Eastern made a policy change, the handbook would no longer say, “Possession or use of firearms or weapons (including air rifles, air pistols, knives, potato guns or blowguns), ammunition or explosives (fireworks) in or upon university-owned, supervised or adjacent property [is prohibited],” according to page 34 of the student handbook. As a result, residence life would probably look very different. Here is what I think it would look like: To ensure safety of everyone, students would be required to register their gun with the university and their resident assistant.

From there, each hall would announce who carries a concealed weapon. These precautions could not ensure that somebody would not steal a gun while the gun carrier is in the shower or sleeping. And roommate matching-the surveys students are required to fill out could say, “Are you clean or messy? Do you stay up late or go to bed early? Do you feel comfortable rooming with a complete stranger who keeps a concealed handgun?”

I am not worried about Eastern’s policy changing even if Pennsylvania’s law lifts the restriction on concealed guns on campuses because this is a private institution that can create its own set of rules. But I am concerned for the public colleges and universities across the country. Utah allows concealed gun carry on campuses; I’m hoping other states will not follow.

Members of the SCCC and I think the safety of campuses around the country is of great importance. However, after listing the various problems that could occur from concealed carry on campus, I do not believe it is the proper solution.

There will never be a completely safe-from-harm campus, but tightening gun licensing laws and putting a limit to the number of hand guns allowed in a state could help.

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