Public Safety & Justice

Guns on Campus

After the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy and in the wake of the recent University of Alabama in Huntsville shooting, people who study or work on a...
by | March 31, 2010

After the 2007 Virginia Tech tragedy and in the wake of the recent University of Alabama in Huntsville shooting, people who study or work on a campus wonder if having a gun could prevent another tragedy. In 26 states, the sentiment is moot: It is illegal to carry a concealed gun on college campuses. In the 23 states that allow the schools to decide, most campuses ban guns. That leaves Utah as the only state where it's legal to carry a concealed gun on its public college campuses.

By the close of this year, however, that could change. At least three state legislatures have debated whether to allow permit-holding faculty to carry concealed weapons on campus. Since 2007, bills have tried to expand gun rights on public college campuses and failed. So if these bills pass, it could be the first step toward guns on campus.

While Virginia's faculty-carry bill was left in committee, legislation in Oklahoma and Arizona was still pending in March. David Burnett, spokesman for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, says the group would rather not divide who can and cannot carry a gun. But the group is supportive of legislation that could further its goals. "Any step toward defense on campus is a step away from being defenseless," he says.

But the organization GunFreeKids.org has recruited the support of more than 130 colleges that have signed a resolution to keep guns off campus. "I think if we introduce more guns, we're just asking for more trouble," says organization President Andy Pelosi.

It's too soon to tell if faculty-carry bills will be successful in relaxing college firearm laws, but it is clear the policy of banning guns on campus is under attack. Five other states considered broader guns-on-campus bills so far this year, and it's expected that more states will follow. By the end of this year, proponents and critics of more lenient gun laws may finally see their views put to the test. "I can see these bills passing," Pelosi says of the bills' chances. "I can see these bills defeated."

Tina Trenkner
Tina Trenkner  |  Deputy Editor, GOVERNING.com
ttrenkner@governing.com  |  @tinatrenkner

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