Today’s Ol’ Dirty has a letter to the editor tackling an issue that has been oddly absent on this blog as of late: concealed carry on campus. In a letter titled, “Students should have wider gun liberties,” undergraduate student Andrew Saldana attacks the Oregon University System’s illegal policy on firearms on campus while outlining the importance of students and faculty being able to protect themselves.
People should be able to be in charge of their own protection. If an individual wants to take precautions to protect themselves, they should be able to do so as long as it is in accordance with the law. Nobody else is obligated to come to your aid if you’re in crisis — not even the police, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling stating that the police are in place to protect “society at large” not any one individual(s). Even if it weren’t the case, as demonstrated above, the response time of police is too slow to prevent people from dying.
The current policy restricts those who wish to protect themselves from doing so in an effort to stop those who do not follow the law already. Gun-free zones are indeed only gun-free because good-natured people who wish to obey the rules abide by them. Many, if not most, mass shootings take place on areas deemed “gun-free.” In reality, all gun-free zones accomplish is the disarming of those who do good and leave them at the mercy of those who wish to do harm. I implore you to view the testimony of former Texas Rep. Suzanna Hupp in relation to the effects that policy and legislation restricting carry can have.
The reality of the state of concealed carry on Oregon university campuses is that it is legal, according to state law (See ORS 166.370). It is only the Oregon University System that doesn’t allow concealed carry on campus — that is to say, you will get suspended, expelled or face other disciplinary action if you are licensed to carry a concealed handgun and do so on campus.
Oregon Commentator editor emeritus CJ Ciaramella wrote a blog post for The Weekly Standard on May 5, 2010 regarding this topic, and conducted interviews with representatives from the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus and the Oregon Firearms Federation. Which team is ahead?
Currently, 26 states ban handguns on campus, even by those with concealed carry permits. Twenty three other states leave the decision to individual colleges. Only Utah explicitly prohibits public colleges from banning licensed handguns on campus.
Pro-concealed carry individuals and groups, like Saldana above and representatives from the Oregon Firearms Federation, argue that allowing individuals to carry on campus adds another level of protection for students, allowing them to defend themselves with more rapidity and agility. Those against concealed carry on campus argue that campuses are already relatively safe, and introducing guns on campus will serve to create more dangerous environments.
But let’s not forget the reason that Saldana wrote the letter in the first place. On May 26, the Emerald printed a story called, “University, law enforcement prepare for campus shooting scenario.” The story focuses around what DPS, the Eugene Police Department and SWAT can do in case of an on-campus shooting. As our favorite anonymous professor points out, the story serves to prop up the mission of the Department of Public Safety, which is to get more money to create an on-campus police force (maybe he and we are both too cynical, but whatever).
The SWAT team will be activated in such a scenario, but SWAT officers might not necessarily be on duty at the time and may have to travel from their homes to the police department to gather their equipment before heading to the scene of an incident. Klinko said this process could take up to 40 minutes, depending on where an officer lives.
Eugene has no full-time SWAT officers; the team members have regular duty assignments in addition to their SWAT duties. Additionally, there are not enough vehicles to allow SWAT officers to take their cars and equipment home with them. Despite the department’s efforts, financial constraints prevent the department from being as prepared as it would like to be.
This predicament was expressed to the Oregon House Judiciary Committee by EPD Chief Pete Kerns during testimony earlier this month.
This is where Saldana’s point peaks: in order for Eugene to accurately prepare for an on-campus shooting, a significant amount of money and time would need to be poured into the creation of an on-campus SWAT team. Students would still need to rely on the Department of Public Safety and the Eugene Police Department for their protection. That’s the ultimate disconnect between pro- and anti-concealed carry on campus: those who favor concealed carry on campus believe students should be able to defend themselves, while those who are opposed feel that students and those with concealed carry licenses are somehow not equipped to handle the magnitude of that task.
This files well into the next common argument, which is the blunt, flat, “guns are dangerous” slogan that is heard over and over from anti-gun advocates. In order to receive a concealed carry license in this state, it requires not only a class and a test, but also a willingness to follow the law in order to carry a weapon. It’s not the individuals who have gone through the process of receiving a concealed carry license that universities need to worry about — it’s those who don’t have the training, those who come onto campus with malicious intent, those who got their guns illegally, or who don’t have the training or credentials to carry their weapons on their person. The responsible individuals who sought out their concealed carry license are by definition equipped to handle the magnitude of their own safety. That’s the point.
Finally, these are our rights. These rights, just like all other rights we are legally entitled to, are granted to us from the United States Constitution. These individuals already have the right, through the same process, to carry their weapons almost anywhere else in the state. University campuses should be no different. Ciaramella hits the nail on the head here:
Indeed, if students’ First Amendment right to free expression does not end at the school gates, as the Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines, why should they be denied their Second Amendment right to self-defense?
As more and more policies are put into place to create a campus bubble, an ivory tower where only certain ideas and practices are allowed (smoking ban, Pacifica Forum, the Bias Response Team), the future for concealed carry on campus seems fairly grim. Students and administrators need to realize that universities are supposed to prepare students for the so-called “real world,” where people smoke cigarettes, say things not everyone agrees with and, yes, carry concealed weapons. It’s time for us to wake up and realize that we shouldn’t be sheltered from the realities of the world outside the gates of our university. It’s time for us to demand that we be able to exercise our rights.
It’s time to stand up.