Public colleges and universities have become a major front in the nation’s debate over guns as gun-rights advocates press to expand the right to carry concealed weapons, a campaign that gained steam after the 2007 shooting rampage at Virginia Tech, which left 33 people dead. And though guns remain banned from most state colleges, pro-gun forces, in a series of high-decibel legal and political battles, have made inroads on the issue in a handful of states, most recently Colorado.
But the clashes seem divorced from realities on campus. On both sides, arguments are built largely on anecdotal evidence and on behalf of a student population that shows little passion for the dispute. After a high-profile fight over guns at the University of Colorado, Boulder, a court ruling last winter forced the university to allow concealed weapons. Students and administrators said the new policy had made no noticeable difference in life on campus.
There has been no sign of a proliferation of guns, which are still prohibited in most dormitories. Although the university has offered a small number of housing units where students could keep guns, so far there have been no takers.
“I don’t think it’s a big concern for students,” said Rebecca Naccarato, 22, a senior from Pueblo. “I think students weren’t really even aware of how much noise there was about it.”