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Editor's Note

Should Students Be Armed?

University Business, May 2008

IN MID-APRIL, AMONG THE HUNDREDS OF articles that recognized the one-year anniversary of the Virginia Tech tragedy, one particular headline on CNN's website caught my attention. "Students Want Chance to Defend Themselves," it read. The story was about a group called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus that originated last year at the University of Cincinnati. The group's members want the right to carry concealed weapons on campus, with the objective of defending themselves and others against a violent attack. The group planned a protest later in the month in which students who support concealed carry on campus would come to school wearing empty holsters.

Currently, Utah is the only state to allow weapons at its nine public universities. Colorado allows students at universities to carry weapons, except at the main university campus in Boulder. Blue Ridge Community College (Va.) also allows students with a proper concealed carry permit to be armed.

A concealed carry permit doesn't confer on its holder any special insight or emotional maturity.

I should point out here that I am not inherently opposed to responsible firearms ownership. I earned marksmanship badges as a teen, and I used to work on a publication that dealt with firearms retailing. I don't even object to people owning and carrying firearms for personal protection.

I do believe, however, that the college campus should remain off limits to firearms. The fact that this group claims to have almost 28,500 members (approximately 90 percent college students and 10 percent faculty, parents, and concerned citizens) indicates that many others don't feel the same way.

The group's efforts to paint the modern college campus like the Wild West fall short. Since The University of Texas at Austin shootings in 1966, there have been only about a dozen such incidents on campuses in the United States. Campus crime overall has been on the decline, whether firearms are present or not. SCCC argues that concealed carry states have lower violent crime rates than other states. That may be, but a low crime rate can be attributed to many things. To claim that the absence of violent crime is the direct result of pistol-packing citizens is a specious argument to say the least.

In the CNN piece, University of Cincinnati Police Chief Gene Ferrara said, "I don't think the answer to bullets flying is to send more bullets flying."

Not surprisingly, in an article on its website that anticipates that very argument, the SCCC offers this reply: "Actually, the answer to bullets flying is almost always more bullets flying. That's why the police bring so many guns with them when they respond to a report of 'shots fired.' "

But where does it stop? The point here is that more does not necessarily mean better.

A concealed carry permit is a piece of paper, like a driver's license, and most people treat it with the same respect and responsibility that they do when getting behind the wheel of a car. But getting a permit doesn't magically confer on its holder any special insight, emotional maturity, or rational abilities that weren't there before. It's not like the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz giving the Scarecrow a brain. In this case, more is not necessarily better.

"My belief is we ought to be focusing on what we do to prevent the shooting from starting," Chief Ferrara said in the CNN piece. I agree with that sentiment wholeheartedly, but I'd like to hear from University Business readers. What is the climate like on your campus? Is there a call for concealed carry? What is your response? Write to me at the address below and let me know.


Write to Tim Goral at