Guns on Campus
The advocates of concealed carry on campus do not share the critics’ concerns. One of the most vocal advocacy groups in favor of arming students is Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC), an organization that has several regional branches. SCCC organizes periodic empty holster protests in support of concealed carry legislation.
The main point, says David Burnett, president of SCCC, is that higher education campuses should not be regarded as different from any other public area. “There’s already a process in place to allow concealed carry,” he notes. “All we as a group are saying is, why is a campus any different? Why should we sacrifice the right to self defense in order to obtain higher education?”
Moreover, advocates like Burnett disagree with the opponents about the potential pitfalls of concealed carry. They maintain that allowing students to arm themselves will help in active shooter situations as well as in preventing other crimes, like robbery and sexual assault. There is some data to back this up. The National Research Council released a report showing that guns are successfully used daily to thwart crimes off campus.
Advocates note that self-defense is imperative given the dearth of security personnel. Most colleges don’t have enough police or security officers to guarantee a rapid response time to all crimes, says Burnett, adding,“Until a law enforcement officer can personally escort me everywhere on campus, I need to be able to protect myself just as I do off campus.”
Pascale says that with regard to defense in active-shooter situations, schools have come a long way in emergency preparedness in the last few years, which could help minimize injuries and fatalities if an incident occurs. “Since the tragic events of 2007 at Virginia Tech, the campus communities have become extremely responsive and aggressive in understanding how to utilize emergency notification systems, whether they are text alerts or internal PA systems, e-mail systems, or Web sites, and integrating all of those together,” he says.
But Burnett says those systems do not keep students safe. For example, he says that text alert systems require someone who witnesses the shooting to relay the information to police or campus security, after which a vetted report will go out to those signed up for the system, by which time the active threat may have ended.
Additionally, Burnett points out that a major aspect of campus security—video surveillance—is a passive system more useful as evidence after a crime than as a deterrent beforehand.
The SCCC Web site also counters many of the other arguments against allowing students to arm. For example, in response to the suicide argument, the site points out that “most” 21-year-old students (and presumably older students) live off-campus and would be allowed to have a gun there anyway. The site also takes on other contentious issues, such as the argument that college students are emotionally volatile or experimenting with drugs and alcohol, by reiterating that these individuals have the right to carry guns when they are off campus.