“We believe in absolutely gun-free, zero tolerance, totally safe schools”

In the wake of recent shooting tragedies at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, there has been a push by the gun lobby to allow concealed carry permit holders to bring handguns onto college campuses. To date, lawmakers in 17 states have considered bills that would prohibit university officials from regulating the possession of firearms on school property. Fortunately, all of these measures have gone down in defeat due to the strong opposition of students, university administrators, and campus law enforcement officials.

During the past six months, two respected organizations, the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), have released well-researched policy briefs that argue clearly and convincingly against allowing concealed handguns on college campuses.

IACLEA was founded in1958 and is affiliated with the National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officers (NASSLEO) and campus law enforcement organizations in 29 states. In their position paper, “Concealed Carrying of Firearms Proposals on College Campuses,” IACLEA’s Board of Directors states unequivocally that such initiatives will not make campuses safer, pointing out that, “There is no credible statistical evidence demonstrating that laws allowing the carrying of concealed firearms reduce crime. In fact, the evidence suggests that permissive concealed carry laws generally will increase crime.”

The paper also states that, “IACLEA is concerned that concealed carry laws have the potential to dramatically increase violence on college and university campuses that our Members are empowered to protect. Among the concerns with concealed carry laws or policies are: the potential for accidental discharge or misuse of firearms at on-campus or off-campus parties where large numbers of students are gathered or at student gatherings where alcohol or drugs are being consumed, as well as the potential for guns to be used as a means to settle disputes between or among students. There is also a real concern that campus police officers responding to a situation involving an active shooter may not be able to distinguish between the shooter and others with firearms.”

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities—a group devoted to helping to advance public education, economic development and the quality of life at our nation’s universities—has issued a policy brief entitled “Concealed Weapons on State College Campuses: In Pursuit of Individual Liberty and Collective Security.” The brief states that “the vast majority of college administrators, law enforcement personnel and students maintain that allowing concealed weapons on campus will pose increased risks for students and faculty, will not deter future attacks, and will lead to confusion during emergency situations.”

The brief further notes that, “While police are extensively trained to deal with crises, students or university staff with concealed weapons are not trained or integrated into campus security plans. Even with the best of intentions, armed students or employees could escalate an already explosive situation further, accidentally cause harm or use a gun in a situation that is not warranted.”

Once upon a time, even the National Rifle Association recognized the wisdom in keeping schools gun-free. In the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre addressed the issue in a speech at the 1999 NRA National Convention, stating: “First, we believe in absolutely gun-free, zero tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America’s schools, period, with the rare exception of law enforcement officers or trained security personnel. We believe America’s schools should be as safe as America’s airports. You can’t talk about, much less take, bombs and guns onto airplanes. Such behavior in our schools should be prosecuted just as certainly as such behavior in our airports is prosecuted.”

Great irony can also be found in recent comments by Ken Stanton, the Virginia Tech Campus Leader for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC). SCCC believes “there is no pragmatic basis for declaring college campuses off-limits to concealed carry.”

Speaking about Haiyang Zhu, who tragically murdered a fellow Hokie on campus last month, Stanton said, “He wasn’t like [Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho] at all. He’s a very social, outgoing guy. He was just a normal outgoing kind of person like the rest of us. We couldn’t have seen this coming.” Stanton did not make it clear why the behavior of students with concealed carry permits—which now can be obtained through a one-hour online “training” course in Virginia—would be any more predictable.

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