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Concealed Carry on College Campuses: A Report on Compulsory Campus Carry Laws & Student Impact

INTRODUCTION

With the sharp increase in gun violence occurring throughout the United States, some states are looking to new solutions. There has been a shift to focus on college and university campuses as a potential area for improvement relating to gun violence. Most recently, the West Virginia State Legislature passed the Campus Self Defense Act during the 2023 Legislative Session, following nine other states that allow for college students to carry concealed firearms on college campuses. There is currently campus carry infrastructure in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and now West Virginia. There is legislation in place in Tennessee that allows for faculty members with licenses to carry concealed weapons but this policy does not extend to students or the general public (Rock, 2023, April 6).

While these ten states have campus carry laws either in place or in the works, twenty-one states allow campus carry policies to be determined by individual institutions and seventeen states prohibit campus carry. This is subject to change at any point in time seeing as the current situation of the United States impacts state legislature decisions. There are two Supreme Court cases that are important to the campus carry discussion: District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) and McDonald v. Chicago (2010) but neither ruling addressed whether an individual has a right to carry a concealed weapon. When determining legality of whether and where a gun can be lawfully carried is determined by the state legislature of each state (Dieterle & Koolage, 2014).

There are very few empirical studies to show whether the new concealed carry on college campuses idea has worked to lower gun violence in the United States. However, there are also few empirical studies in place to show that this new legislation has increased gun violence on college campuses in the United States. In Utah, 2001-2011 data revealed that there was no decrease in violent crimes with the implementation of campus carry but rather an increase in sexual assault and burglaries (Dieterle & Koolage, 2014).

In addition to the increase in firearms on college campuses, the current charged political climate has a large role to play in the dangers of these campus carry policies. Often, there is targeted violence and discrimination against marginalized communities, and these campus carry policies make it even more dangerous for these students to pursue a post-secondary education. The addition of armed students and faculty, especially with concealed carry, means that anyone can be viewed as a possible threat which is very harmful to collaboration and open dialogue (Watt et al., 2018).

Despite the overwhelming opposition from college students, these campus carry laws continue to pass in state legislatures. The purpose of this report is twofold. The first half is responsible for providing background on campus carry laws and the current research/information available. The second half is to give students the opportunity to anonymously share their experiences and opinions about the recent focus on compulsory campus carry laws that are impacting educational opportunities.



DEFINITIONS

Concealed Carry – The practice of carrying a weapon on one’s person in public–concealed firearms can be carried on a person’s body or off-body in a purse, backpack or other specialized concealment accessories and garments (USCCA - U.S. concealed carry association, n.d.).


Compulsory Campus Carry – Legislation that forces institutions to allow concealed carry on campus whether there is desire or opposition (Lewis, 2016).


Discretionary Campus Carry – Legislation that permits, but does not require, post-secondary educational institutions to allow concealed carry on campus (Lewis, 2016).


Empirical – Based on what is experienced or seen rather than theory (EMPIRICAL | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary, n.d.)


First Amendment – The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition. It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices. It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely. It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government (Legal Information Institute, n.d.)


Gun Violence – Violence committed with the use of firearms, for example pistols, shotguns, assault rifles, or machine guns (Amnesty International, 2022, November 23).


Handgun – a firearm (such as a revolver or pistol) designed to be held and fired with one hand (Mirriam-Webster, n.d.).


Individual Academic Freedom – Refers to students and teachers freedom to engage in an independent and inhibited exchange of ideas (Lewis, 2016).


Institutional Academic Freedom – An institution’s autonomous decision making ability and the protection from political interference in academic-policy decisions (Lewis, 2016).


Legislation – Refers to the preparation and enactment of laws by a legislative body through its lawmaking process (Legal Information Institute, n.d.).


Marginalized – Placed in a position of little or no importance, influence, or power (Miriam-Webster, n.d.).


Open Carry – The practice of carrying a firearm in public in circumstances where the firearm is fully or partially visible to others (USCCA - U.S. concealed carry association, n.d.).


Post-Secondary – Relating to education beyond high school (Miriam-Webster, n.d.).


Prohibitory Campus Carry – Legislation that completely forbids firearms on public college or university campuses (Lewis, 2016).


Public Institution – An institution that is operated by or controlled by the Federal government, a State, or a political subdivision of a State such as a city or county (Legal Information Institute, n.d.).


Second Amendment – A United States Constitutional Amendment that protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home, as well as states right to maintain an armed militia (Legal Information Institute, n.d.).


Social Capital – Patterns of civil engagements and feelings of mutual obligations among people (Watt et al., 2018).


State Legislature – A generic term referring to the legislative body of any of the country’s 50 states but the formal name varies from state to state (Ballotpedia, n.d.).


Violent Crime – Include crimes of harm against another person like assault or battery, sexual crimes, and serious property crimes like arson–but these vary across states (Justia, 2023, May 19).




HISTORY AND BACKGROUND

The use and owning of firearms has been a staple of American life since the foundation of the United States. However, it was not until somewhat recently that clarification has been made on the protections provided by the Second Amendment in the United States Constitution. In order to understand the legality of campus carry laws, one must understand the implications imposed on these policies by federal provisions, and other governing documents or court cases. This section provides a brief history and background on subjects necessary to understanding the impact of campus carry laws.

The Second Amendment and Supreme Court Cases

The Second Amendment reads, “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” (Birnbaum, 2013). At first glance, the amendment seems to express that states have the right to arm a militia and that citizens have a right to protect themselves using firearms. However, until 2008, the developed legal consensus was that the Second Amendment only protected the ability of states to maintain armed militias and did not touch on the individual rights of citizenry.

In 2008, the Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller held that the purpose of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution was, in fact, meant to protect individual’s right to possess a firearm for traditional and legal purposes such as self defense. Further elaboration revealed that, like most other rights in the Constitution, the Second Amendment is limited. This right does not apply to all weapons nor does an individual have a right to carry weapons whenever and for whatever purpose. Additionally, prohibitions against gun ownership for certain groups of people such as minors, felons, those seeking asylum, mentally ill, and others was acceptable. So while some gun licensing laws and certain restrictions on possession that are applied to gun ownership are allowed, a total ban on handgun or other laws that make it next to or impossible to own and use a firearm for legal purposes would violate the Second Amendment and would therefore be considered unconstitutional (Birnbaum, 2013).

Following District of Columbia v. Heller, the McDonald v. Chicago case in 2010 held that the Second Amendment rights protected by the Constitution were equally applicable to either state or local laws (Birnbaum, 2013). However, while the United States Supreme Court provided that owning a firearm and having it in a residence is protected by the Second Amendment and Constitution, the issue of bearing concealed firearms in public has not been addressed by the Supreme Court. Many lower courts have addressed the issue of publicly carrying concealed firearms and have concluded that the Second Amendment does not protect the right to conceal carry in public. Many state courts have decided that concealed firearms in public spaces pose a danger to public safety and oftentimes individual self defense interests are trumped by public safety interests (Lewis, 2016).

Campus Carry Laws

Campus carry laws put higher educational institutions in difficult situations as they are only provided with two real options to move forward. They can either follow a law that the overwhelming majority of students, faculty, and administrators on campus disagree with or disobey the law by continuing to ban firearms on campus, ignoring campus carry, and potentially risk a reduction in state funding or face other financial penalties (Lewis, 2016).

Federal provisions apply to all higher education institutions, but differences among the constitutions, laws, and regulations of the 50 states have created a mixture of policies regarding campus carry laws. Some states and institutions ban firearms completely while others permit open carry anywhere on campus or with some location restrictions, and other states prohibit higher education institutions from banning weapons on campus (Birnbaum, 2013).

The following states have campus carry infrastructure or legislation in place: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia. States that leave campus carry decisions up to individual colleges and universities: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Lastly, the states that prohibit campus carry are: California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Wyoming (Rock, 2023, April 6).

However, while certain states have campus carry infrastructure in place, the laws tend to see variations across the states. Kansas allows public colleges to ban guns in buildings on campus as long as signs are posted at every single entrance explicitly stating that weapons of any kind are prohibited. Similarly, in 2012, the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission voted unanimously to ban any weapons in buildings on campus at all 7 state colleges and universities with the only exceptions being military personnel, law enforcement, and some schools with written permission. Additionally, Wisconsin allows colleges and universities to ban guns from buildings on campus as well (Rock, 2023, April 6).

Georgia has the Safe Carry Protection Act which was passed and implemented in 2014. This legislation increases gun owners’ rights so that they can carry their firearms in churches, bars, restaurants, nightclubs, government buildings with no security checkpoint, and most importantly, schools/colleges/universities. Critics call this legislation the “Guns Everywhere Law” and argue that it ignores all findings of gun violence studies. From this legislation, two student groups came forward: Students for Concealed Carry (SCC) and Students for Gun Free Schools (SGFS) (Murty et al., 2016).

In Mississippi, legislation passed in 2011 created an exception to allow concealed carry on college campuses but only for those who have taken a training course on safe handling and use of guns by a certified instructor. Tennessee allows only faculty with correct licensing to carry weapons on campus but does not extend this to students or the general public. On the other end, Utah is the only state to have a statute in place specifically naming public colleges and universities as a public entity that does not have any authority to ban concealed carry on campuses (Rock, 2023, April 6).

West Virginia is the most recent state to join those with compulsory campus carry laws. The Campus Self Defense Act passed during the 2023 West Virginia State Legislative Session and the effective date of campus carry in the state will be July 1, 2024. While this legislation is still new and public higher education institutions are working towards implementation, there are some exceptions to where firearms can be carried. The bill does not allow concealed carry at sporting events, healthcare facilities, daycare facilities, and there will be restrictions on residence halls as well.

While most states either prohibit campus carry or leave campus carry decisions up to the discretion of individual colleges and universities, some states allow guns to be locked in cars on college and university campuses. These states include: Alabama, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, and South Carolina (Rock, 2023, April 6).

Concealed Carry, Permitless Carry, and Gun Permits by State

Since just 2021, 11 states have passed permitless carry laws including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. Most recently, Florida became the 26th state to have permitless carry on April 3, 2023 after Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill and it became law (Rock, 2023, April 7).

The states that allow adults to carry concealed handguns without licenses are: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and Alaska. Additionally, since most states are no longer requiring permits to carry concealed or sometimes open weapons, a majority of states are no longer requiring live-fire training to carry a gun. There are 17 states that still require training: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and South Carolina (Rock, 2023, April 7).

While Florida is leading the charge with the highest number of concealed carry permits at approximately 2.57 million permit holders, and Texas right behind at 1.68 million permit holders, each state has its own rules and regulations for its concealed carry laws and regulations. There are four broad categories that states can fall under: Shall Issue, May Issue, Constitutional Carry, and Right Denied (Rock, 2023, April 7). While these four categories are broad, there are smaller details and restrictions experienced by each state regarding their concealed carry laws.

States that fall under Shall Issue to Residents Only will issue any resident of that state a concealed carry permit as long as they meet all of the requirements by the State and Federal laws. The states and territories that fall under this category include: Alabama, California, Colorado, Guam, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, and New Mexico (Rock, 2023, April 7). It is important to note that this grouping of states will only issue permits to residents of their state and not to anyone who does not reside in the state in question.

States that fall under Shall Issue to Residents and Non Residents will issue any resident of that state or a non resident a concealed carry permit as long as they meet the requirements of State and Federal law. States and territories under Shall Issue to Residents and Non Residents include: District of Columbia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin (Rock, 2023, April 7). Different from the first described grouping, these states will issue concealed carry permits to those who do not reside in the state in question.

States that fall under May Issue to Residents Only have the authority or power to make a judgment call on whether or not they want to issue a concealed carry permit to a resident even if they meet the requirements of State and Federal law but they will not issue permits to non residents. States and territories that fall under May Issue to Residents Only include: Delaware and the Virgin Islands (Rock, 2023, April 7). Again, note that this grouping of states will not provide concealed carry permits to anyone who does not reside in the state in question, despite their judgment call.

States that are May Issue to Residents and Non Residents have the authority or power to make a judgment call on whether or not they want to issue a concealed carry permit to a resident or non resident of that state even if they meet the requirements of State and Federal law. The states that fall under May Issue to Residents and Non Residents include: Connecticut, Hawaii, and New York (Rock, 2023, April 7).

States that fall under Constitutional Carry and Shall Issue to Residents Only have some form of Constitutional Carry law that allows residents and in some cases non residents to carry a concealed weapon without a permit but they will still issue any resident of that state a concealed carry permit as long as they meet the requirements of State and Federal law. The states that fall under Constitutional Carry and Shall Issue to Residents include: Alaska, Georgia, Montana, and Wyoming (Rock, 2023, April 7).

States that fall under Constitutional Carry and Shall Issue to Residents and Non Residents have some form of Constitutional Carry law that allows residents and in some cases non residents to carry a concealed weapon without having a necessary permit but they will still issue any resident or non resident a concealed carry permit as long as they meet the requirements of the State and Federal law. States that fall under Constitutional Carry and Shall Issue to Residents and Non Residents include the following: Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia (Rock, 2023, April 7).

States that are Constitutional Carry and Do Not Issue have some form of Constitutional Carry law that allows residents and in some cases non residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit. The states that fall under Constitutional Carry and Do Not Issue include Florida and Vermont (Rock, 2023, April 7). Florida and Vermont do not issue any concealed carry permits at all.

States that fall under Right Denied do not allow private citizens to carry handguns and do not issue concealed carry permits but this only affects American Samoa and the North Mariana Islands (Rock, 2023, April 7). These are both territories and have different rules and regulations than states identifiable by the United States.

In 2022, an estimated 22.01 million adults in the United States had concealed carry permits, making up approximately 8.5% of the United States adult population (Rock, 2023, April 7). However, it is important to now look more in depth at the states that do not require concealed carry permits for adults to carry firearms in public.

There are six generic groupings of permitless carry laws throughout the 28 states that either have permitless carry laws or limited permitless carry laws. These groupings consist of: permitless concealed carry for those 18 years of age and older, permitless open and concealed carry for those 18 years of age and older, permitless concealed carry for those 19 years of age and older, permitless open and concealed carry for those 19 years of age and older, permitless concealed carry for those 21 years of age and older, and permitless open and concealed carry for those 21 years of age and older (Permitless Carry States, n.d.). This categorization of states does not include the exceptions provided by out of state permits and those in the military.

The first grouping (permitless concealed carry for those 18 years of age and older) includes the following states: Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Vermont. The second grouping (permitless open and concealed carry for those 18 years of age and older) includes the following states: Indiana and Tennessee. The third grouping (permitless concealed carry for those 19 years of age and older) includes only one state: Missouri. The fourth grouping (permitless open and concealed carry for those 19 years of age and older) also includes one state: Alabama (Permitless Carry States, n.d.).

The fifth grouping (permitless concealed carry for those 21 years of age and older) includes the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The sixth and last grouping (permitless open and concealed carry for those 21 years and older) includes the following states: Ohio, Iowa, and Georgia (Permitless Carry States, n.d.). Most of the states that allow for Constitutional or permitless carry fall under the category of permitless concealed carry for those 21 years of age and older.

Crime on Campus

The Clery Act requires each higher education institution to annually report and disclose the number of alleged campus incidents of criminal activity reported to campus and local authorities. However, the data is not always factually correct and is often criticized because higher education institutions may not only differ in their interpretation of the self-reporting requirements but also may fail to report some offenses in order to protect their reputation (Birnbaum, 2013).

While the crime rate on college campuses is lower than the general population, it still exists. Except for sexual assault, men are the most likely to be victims of violent crimes. Of all crime on college and university campuses, rape and sexual assault of women are the most prevalent and the fact that college-aged women are the most likely to be victims of this leads to an increased fear of being victims of other violent crimes (Patten et al., 2013).

Violent crimes are not a new phenomenon on college campuses. A study in 2010 analyzed 272 incidents of targeted violence on college campuses between 1990-2008 in which guns were used in 54% of reported cases and almost 60% of fatal violence incidents were instigated against someone previously known by their attacker (Birnbaum, 2013). While the chances of being a random victim of a violent crime on a college campus are relatively slim, there is never a guarantee that it will not happen.

No amount of technology, money, or human resources can promise members of a college or university community that they will never fall victim to a violent crime. In response to the possibility of violent crimes on campus, two competing policy options or narratives have developed to create the debate over campus carry laws. The first is that campus violence can be prevented by increasing the number of armed individuals on campus and the other is that campus violence would be reduced by a total ban on weapons on campus (Birnbaum, 2013).

Hostile interactions often occur frequently on college and university campuses because students are tired, angry, or sometimes even drunk. Adding firearms to this mix will increase the potential for harm. Alcohol and drug use makes the possibility of having guns on campus even more dangerous than if there were no alcohol or drug use on campuses. In addition to the hostile interactions, suicide is the leading cause of death in college students in the United States and attempts with a firearm are almost always successful as 85% of attempted suicides with a firearm are fatal (Dieterle & Koolage, 2014). While suicide is not necessarily a crime, it is often mentioned alongside college and university crime rates as it would be just as impacted by campus carry laws.


CAMPUS CARRY

There are three categories surrounding campus carry legislation: prohibitory, discretionary, and compulsory. Prohibitory campus carry legislation completely forbids firearms on public college or university campuses. Discretionary campus carry legislation permits, but does not require, post-secondary educational institutions to allow concealed carry on campus. Compulsory campus carry legislation forces institutions to allow concealed carry on campus whether there is desire or opposition (Lewis, 2016). For the purpose of this report, the focus will be on compulsory campus carry legislation.

This section of the report will discuss the current literature on compulsory campus carry legislation and the arguments made for and against these laws.

First Amendment v. Second Amendment

One of the most compelling opposition arguments against campus carry legislation is that these laws infringe on the First Amendment right to free speech and academic freedom. While the constitutional right to academic freedom is not plainly stated in the First Amendment, the United States Supreme Court has recognized it as a right stemming naturally from free speech. Scholars and courts have recognized two types of academic freedoms: institutional, belonging to the college or university, and individual, belonging to the student or faculty (Lewis, 2016).

Institutions have the right to autonomous decision making and while the government has general power to pass laws that impact how higher education institutions operate, the Supreme Court has repeatedly had to protect schools’ ability to set certain criteria such as admissions and other academic policy decisions. It is mostly because colleges and universities are to have freedom to set their own curriculums and determine how each curriculum should be taught that each educational institution should be allowed to decide whether or not to allow campus carry. Therefore, deciding whether or not to allow campus carry should be the same type of academic policy decision as when schools decide whom to admit for study, or the curriculum that is being taught because it affects the academic environment (Lewis, 2016). In addition to curriculum, admission, and environmental conditions, academic autonomy advocates believe that each institution should have the responsibility for campus security and safety rather than letting students and faculty take the matter into their own hands (Birnbaum, 2013).

The information provided about institutional academic freedom shows that a higher education institution could challenge campus carry laws on the grounds of constitutional academic freedom protected by the First Amendment. When First Amendment rights are being challenged, there must be either empirical research or at least sound reasoning as to why a state government would want the law in place. Seeing that there is not sufficient empirical evidence due to lack of studies to support that campus carry laws make campus safer nor is there sound reasoning, these laws can be challenged (Lewis, 2016).

However, institutional academic freedom is not the only line of defense when it comes to pitting the First Amendment against the Second Amendment in the context of campus carry laws. Individual students, professors, and administrators also have a constitutional right to academic freedom in which they can engage in an independent and free exchange of ideas (Lewis, 2016). There are many complicated ways that campus carry laws infringe on free and open methods of teaching and learning.

To start, the presence of firearms in the classroom environment interferes with a professor’s right to teach freely without avoiding sensitive or controversial topics. It is nearly impossible to walk into a college or university where all of the students and professors share the same beliefs whether it be about politics, religion, history, or even English and this can lead to very tense situations. Even the simple addition of firearms to a tense situation can create an uncomfortable learning and working environment while also making some students and faculty more cautious to speak their mind about sensitive or controversial topics out of fear that these discussions could become violent (Lewis, 2016).

More specifically with campus carry laws in place, professors might be unwilling to give students poor grades, or challenge them on their conduct for fear of violent confrontation or death, which is not out of the question. Professors are also more likely to limit how accessible they are to students such as changing the formatting of office hours, or meeting at all outside of the formal classroom which may negatively impact the learning conditions of students as well as the teaching methods of professors (Lewis, 2016). However, teacher student relationships are not the only impact of campus carry laws on professors.

Professors or other faculty members might not be willing to cast negative votes on governance matters such as tenure and campus carry laws are certainly increasing the likelihood of retaliatory shootings for adverse employment actions such as issues of tenure or discipline in general. Additionally, campus carry laws prevent professors or faculty from questioning administrators for fear of deadly consequences to difficult conversations (Lewis, 2016). However, professors are not the only individuals on college campuses whose free speech and academic freedom might be violated by campus carry laws as students are equally affected.

Many students who are uncomfortable in the presence of firearms, especially in a classroom environment, agree that guns inhibit students from freely exchanging ideas. One of the most important aspects of a college or university education is the coming together of people from different ethnic, political, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds to discuss issues of importance. However, even more important than this is the participation of students in political speech in which the Supreme Court has made very clear that this type of speech must prevail against any laws meant to suppress it. Political speech is central to the purpose and meaning of the First Amendment and students are likely to avoid participating in political speech if they fear other students might be concealing firearms (Lewis, 2016).

The Second Amendment provides the United States with the right to own a gun and keep it in a place of residence, but it does not protect the right to carry firearms in public and especially not on a college or university campus. However, the campus carry laws that are popping up in many states are starting to infringe on the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and academic freedom both at an institutional level and an individual one.

Marginalization and Targeting Communities

Watt et al. (2018) expresses that since the 2016 election of former President Donald Trump, the United States has experienced an increase in not just rhetorical but also physical violence against marginalized groups of people. Unfortunately, these tensions have not skipped over college and university campuses which have actually become a focus point for conflict within the current political climate. As previously mentioned, firearms are also becoming more common in university spaces such as classrooms, residence halls, and other buildings on campus. This addition of firearms to college and university campuses provides another layer of complexity to the already tense political atmosphere on many campuses (Watt et al., 2018).

Many opponents of campus carry laws argue that the presence of firearms on college campuses will significantly undercut the security of marginalized students and faculty. As guns are considered to be the ultimate weapon of intimidation, marginalized groups face a new fear: the cost of coming to campus for class or work will now not be limited to harassment or taunting but may include physical and visible violence (Watts et al., 2018). Guns are able to inflict deadly violence whether their use is on purpose or unintentional/accidental. It is no surprise that groups of faculty and students who already face discrimination might have concerns about campus carry laws.

Many universities and colleges are stating that they want a representative student body and faculty, but continuing to provide little pushback to the state government over compulsory campus carry laws is degrading university spaces as there will be lower campus and community participation rates from marginalized students and faculty (Watts et al., 2018). With more fear, comes less participation. It is a fair assumption that if students or faculty are scared to be on a college or university campus, they are not going to spend more time there than absolutely necessary.

On top of avoiding campus spaces, marginalized students and faculty will likely isolate themselves. College students use classes and on campus activities to meet their peers and make friends. If they are unable to attend these on campus activities for fear of compulsory campus carry laws, there will be more isolation, as well as emotional strain (Watts, et al., 2018).

If targeting of marginalized students and faculty is increased or made more dangerous by campus carry laws, it can be detrimental not only to the quality of education, but also the mental and physical health of those being discriminated against. With negative impacts on mental and physical health, students often fall behind in not only their studies, but taking care of their bodies and can lead to devastating consequences for both the body and mind.

Compulsory Campus Carry Advocates

While the majority of the literature surrounding compulsory campus carry laws focuses on why many are opposed to this type of legislation, there are arguments made in favor of concealed carry on college campuses. The arguments in favor of campus carry laws are relatively uniform but are carried strongly by those advocating for their right to carry concealed firearms on campuses. There are typically two primary arguments in favor of campus carry laws: the consequentialist argument and the rights-based argument (Dieterle & Koolage, 2014).

The consequentialist argument for campus carry policies states that the presence of guns on campus makes the college or university campus safer (Dieterle & Koolage, 2014). It is because of this that many compulsory campus carry advocates believe and argue that concealed weapons such as handguns give students, faculty, and administrators the power and ability to protect themselves which is increasing overall campus safety (Watt et al., 2018). When looking at the consequentialist argument, there are two ways that allowing concealed carry might make college and university campuses safer: criminals might be deterred from committing crimes on campus and concealed weapons could be used to stop a crime (Dieterle & Koolage, 2014). Unfortunately, there is not strong enough empirical evidence to support either of these possibilities.

Another strong argument made in favor of campus carry laws is the rights-based argument. The District of Columbia v. Heller case provided the framework that campus carry advocates utilize to argue their right to bear arms not only in their homes, but on campus as well. According to Dieterle and Koolage (2014), the rights based argument essentially states that campus bans of guns interfere with lawful gun owners’ rights to protect themselves.

In addition to these two main arguments, there are smaller details that campus carry advocates use to strengthen their case. Many believe that establishing “gun free” zones do not work in which signs on campus that state “no guns allowed” just announces to criminals the absence of defensive firearms (Birnbaum, 2013). Compulsory campus carry advocates also argue that firearm bans on college and university campuses make these higher educational institutions more attractive targets for criminals and for mass shooters in particular (Lewis, 2016).

States with compulsory campus carry laws argue that their interest is to allow concealed carry permit holders to carry on college and university campuses so that they have an opportunity to not only protect themselves, but an opportunity to protect others if there is a mass shooting or other type of crime on campus (Lewis, 2016). While there is little to no empirical evidence to support this interest, it is still argued by many of the states that allow compulsory campus carry on college and university campuses.

Social Capital

Social capital actually has an important part to play in the debate between those who support campus carry laws and those who oppose campus carry laws. Social capital, broadly defined, describes the patterns of civil feelings or engagement of mutual obligations among people while also showing that relationships are vital resources in which members of a community are benefitting from one another (Patten et al., 2013). The higher level of social capital, the closer a community is to trust and understanding which should lead to lower crime rates and violence experienced.

The level of social capital one has on a college campus can play a huge role in this debate because it has a strong influence over safety. There have been many studies conducted to reveal that there is a strong correlation between strong social capital, levels of safety, and perceived safety not just on college campuses but communities in general (Patten et al., 2013). If one has strong or higher social capital, they are more likely to at least feel safer in their community than those with weak or lower amounts of social capital.

Gun ownership is also impacted by social capital. It may be related to a lack or loss of social capital in which those who self identify as less likely to trust others are more likely to own guns (Patten et al., 2013). Additionally, less trust leads to lower levels of safety or the feeling of safety in a community, whether it be a neighborhood or a college campus. Less social capital can lead to more gun ownership which according to a 2000 study, more guns in a community, regardless of who owns the gun, leads to reduced feelings of safety (Patten et al., 2013).

Reduced feelings of safety also leads to increased feelings of fear which prevents students and faculty from getting the academic experience promised by a college or university because they will isolate themselves and stay away from campus. This significantly impacts the quality of not only the education being provided, but also the campus environment as a whole.




SURVEY EXPLANATION

The purpose of this survey is to observe the general student population’s understanding of campus carry legislation as well as the opinions held by students attending a post-secondary educational institution. Campus carry legislation is a relatively new occurrence or experience for students attending colleges or universities which also means that there is not a vast range of research studies done on the topic. This survey is an opportunity for students to voice their opinions about campus carry legislation.

This survey has been designed to collect information about the opinions about and knowledge of campus carry laws by students in a way that protects confidentiality and anonymity for accurate responses. The survey contains ten questions. Of these ten questions, seven are closed ended, multiple choice questions and three are open ended questions:


  1. Do you attend a public college/university?

    1. Yes

    2. No

  2. Do you attend a private college/university?

    1. Yes

    2. No

  3. What college/university do you attend or did attend?

    1. Open Ended

  4. What state do you attend or did attend college/university in?

    1. Open Ended

  5. Does the state you reside in have campus carry laws?

    1. Yes

    2. No

    3. I don’t know

  6. Does your college/university allow firearms on campus?

    1. Yes

    2. No

    3. I don’t know

  7. Do you know what a concealed carry permit is?

    1. Yes

    2. No

    3. Maybe

  8. Do you have a concealed carry permit?

    1. Yes

    2. No

  9. Would you feel safe attending college/university if your school allowed campus carry?

    1. Yes

    2. No

    3. Maybe

  10. Please elaborate on any feelings you might have about the topic of campus carry laws.

    1. Open Ended


SURVEY RESULTS

The survey was distributed to college students through social media to collect a random sample. There are twenty responses that will be analyzed in this section of the report. It is important to mention again that the complete anonymity of respondents was important to the reliability and validity of this report and the most identifying information provided is what college or university attended.

Closed and Information Collection Questions

The first question: do you currently attend a public college or university received 6 no’s (30%) and 14 yes’s (70%). The second question: do you currently attend a private college or university received 17 no’s (85%) and 3 yes’s (15%). The responses to these first two questions shows us that 14 currently attend a public college or university. 3 currently attend a private college or university, and 3 do not attend a college or university at this moment.

The third question: what university or college do you/did you attend yielded many different answers. 6 respondents attend or attended West Virginia University (30%), 3 respondents attend or attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania (15%), 2 respondents attend or attended Gettysburg College (10%), 2 respondents attend or attended the Pennsylvania State University (10%), 2 respondents attend or attended Slippery Rock University (10%), 1 respondent attends or attended West Chester University of Pennsylvania (5%), 1 respondent attends or attended the University of Pittsburgh (5%). 1 respondent attends or attended the University of Miami (5%), 1 respondent attends or attended Oakland University (5%), and 1 respondent stated Not Applicable (5%).

The fourth question: what state do you attend or attended college or university in also yielded different answers. 11 respondents attend/attended school in Pennsylvania (55%), 6 respondents attend/attended school in West Virginia (30%), 1 respondent attends/attended school in Michigan (5%), 1 respondent attends/attended school in Florida (5%), and 1 respondent stated Not Applicable (5%).

The fifth question: does the state you reside in have campus carry laws provided enlightening information on the knowledge students have about the topic. 10 responded with “I don’t know” (50%), 6 responded with “yes” (30%), and 4 responded with “no” (20%). While the sixth question: does your college/university allow firearms on campus was just as enlightening in terms of student knowledge. 10 responded with “no” (50%), 7 responded with “I don’t know” (35%), and 3 responded with “yes” (15%).

Question seven: do you know what a concealed carry permit is, tested basic firearm knowledge. 18 responded with “yes” (90%), and 2 responded with “maybe” (10%). The eighth question provided more information about the respondents: do you have a concealed carry permit? 18 responded with “no” (90%) and 2 responded “yes” (10%).

Question nine helps understand the opinions expressed by students regarding their safety on campus: would you feel safe attending college or university if your school allowed campus carry? 15 responded with “no” (75%), 3 responded with “yes” (15%), and 3 responded with “maybe” (10%).

Open and Opinion Based Question

The final question on the survey is open ended and provides a space to students (past and present) to elaborate on their feelings about campus carry laws. This section of the report will provide the answers of this open ended question while maintaining anonymity for confidentiality purposes.

The following statements are taken from the responses given in the survey and only edited to remove any identifiable information to maintain anonymity.


  • “College is for learning not dying by a gunshot wound”

  • “I do not agree with campus carry laws and do not believe they make campus any safer”

  • “I feel that college campuses are already unsafe as it is and allowing students to carry guns would make it worse”

  • “I don’t think anyone should have guns to be honest”

  • “I just don’t think everyone walking around with a gun makes us safer. We are all humans with complicated emotions, so it’s impossible to tell how someone might react to any particular situation if they have a firearm, even if they are perceived to be a ‘good guy’”

  • “A good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. If they get the correct psychological and other exams then it should be fine. I’d rather have someone armed to stop a school shooting than dying defenseless and/or being a sitting duck”

  • “I don’t think allowing students to carry around firearms makes me feel any more safe”

  • “They should be eradicated because they only heighten fears and make people more defensive whilst still ignoring the much larger problem at hand”

  • “College students are too immature to conceal carry on campus. This would make campus less safe for all students”

  • “I feel as if this allows more opportunity for dangerous situations, especially when dealing with college students who do not always know healthy ways to process their feelings”

  • “I don’t think firearms are to be feared and I would feel safer being able to protect myself in a shooter situation if one would occur”

  • “I do not trust my peers with guns. I respect an individual’s right to own and carry, but on a college campus where sexual assaults, rape, stalking, drug and alcohol use, and other serious crimes are ignored, swept under the rug, or are taken care of after years of waiting and fighting, I cannot trust my university to protect and support students”

  • “It should be illegal to restrict all concealed carry on campuses”

  • “I feel that allowing kids to have guns on campus would make everyone feel unsafe. Especially if those kids are drinking or anything.”

  • “I attend classes with numerous students who do possess concealed carry permits. I don’t have strong feelings against the passage but I don’t know that it’s necessary to make it legal either”

  • “I am worried about residence life and the economic state of the university when campus carry needs to be implemented next year”

  • “More guns don’t solve a gun problem. If we can’t get locks on doors, we shouldn’t be worrying about campus carry laws. There is no place for any firearms in any academic institution.”

  • “I understand and respect people’s right to own and carry firearms, but I disagree that it is a responsible decision to allow people to have a firearm on their person in day to day life and public areas. I believe that the presence of a firearm increases the risk of violent situations”


CONCLUSION

After reviewing the literature, opposing and supporting arguments, and the information collected from past and current students, it can be concluded that compulsory campus carry laws are complex. Campus carry will continue to be a great cause for debate in the United States as gun violence rampages throughout the country. Unfortunately, compulsory carry laws are not black and white and there is a gray area separating those who oppose campus carry and those who support campus carry.

The Second Amendment and various Supreme Court cases discuss the right to own and possess firearms, but the Supreme Court has not acknowledged a constitutional right to carry firearms in public. This allows for the opponent's argument of First versus Second Amendment rights as a discussion point against compulsory campus carry laws.

Additionally, opponents of campus carry utilize social capital and the targeting of marginalized groups to further express the dangers of and their concerns about campus carry laws at colleges and universities. These concerns include decreased feelings of safety, isolation, and a decrease in participation on college and university campuses despite higher educational institution administrations wanting a more representative student body and faculty.

On the other side, supporters of campus carry use two strong arguments in favor of compulsory campus carry laws: rights-based and consequentialist arguments with smaller details to supplement these two larger ideas. The Second Amendment and Supreme Court cases are used as a framework to support the rights-based argument. Supporters also argue that concealed campus carry deters criminal activity and provides the means necessary to prevent mass shootings and other crime, making college and university campuses overall safer.

The survey conducted in order to understand the perspective of past and current college students regarding campus carry laws showed the similar results of the literature researched. There was a majority of students who would not feel safe or safer attending college or university if their school had campus carry laws. There were enough responses in support for campus carry to see that there is not a clear cut answer as to whether compulsory campus carry laws are beneficial or detrimental to students and the academic learning environment.

As states continue to pass laws that force higher education institutions to allow campus carry, more research will need to be conducted in order to understand the impacts that these campus carry laws have not only on the safety of students and faculty, but also the quality of education being provided by campuses that are impacted by these policies.



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