Gunfight at the Campus Corral?

BY HANK REICHMAN

On July 1, Georgia’s new “campus carry” law went into effect.  The law, similar to legislation recently enacted in other states,most notably Texas, allows weapons permit holders to carry firearms on campus except at a sporting venue or in a student dormitory.  On July 25, a Kennesaw State University student was robbed at gunpoint on campus.  The two armed robbers took his wallet — and his gun!  So much for arguments that the new law will make campuses safer by allowing students with weapons permits to protect themselves.  It is fortunate that the victim did not try to shoot his way out of the situation.  Who knows what carnage might have ensued.

In November 2015, the AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges issued a joint statement opposing such legislation.  The statement noted that “College campuses are marketplaces of ideas, and a rigorous academic exchange of ideas may be chilled by the presence of weapons. Students and faculty members will not be comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they think there might be a gun in the room.”  The four organizations urged colleges and universities “to rely on trained and equipped professional law-enforcement personnel to respond to emergency incidents.”  They also called on state legislatures to “refrain from interfering with decisions that are properly the responsibility of the academic community.”

Empirical research by the Johns Hopkins Center on Gun Policy & Research, published in 2016, concludes that “increasing gun availability in campus environments could make far more common acts of aggression, recklessness, or self-harm more deadly and, thus, have a deleterious impact on the safety of students, faculty, and staff.”  That study notes as well that if “campus officers must assume that any given student is armed, this may compromise their ability to effectively respond to, and de-escalate” disputes.  It is not too late for legislators to reverse course before incidents like that at Kennesaw State multiply and escalate.

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