Twelve states aim for college gun rights
Before the law allowed senior criminal justice major Sean Langan to drive, smoke or drink, he knew how to safely fire a gun.
Langan grew up around guns; his father is a retired Secret Service officer who participated in competitive shooting during his career with the federal agency.
When he reached middle school age, Langan’s father began to take him hunting, Langan shot in the Scholastic Clay Target Program in high school, and he plans on going into law enforcement after graduation.
“Guns are not a joke and you always treat one with respect, no matter if its loaded or not,” Langan said. “Basically, if you’re pointing a gun at something, you are planning to destroy it, so it’s never to be messed with. I’m a big safety nut; I don’t like to mess around with people who treat guns disrespectfully.”
While he recognizes that he is no expert on handling guns, Langan feels comfortable going to shooting ranges with friends and introducing them to the basics.
But there is one place Langan knows he cannot have and does not want to have a gun: Towson University.
“I think the school’s policy on no weapons is not a bad idea,” he said. “I think a lot of people on college campuses are just not mature enough [to carry a gun]. Personally, just from my past experiences with some students on campus … I just don’t trust everybody. I know it sounds a little mean, but it’s true.”
A new school supply may soon find its way onto college campuses, carried by students as easily as a textbook or pen: concealed weapons.
In light of events such as 2007’s Virginia Tech shootings and an attempted assassination of a United States representative on Jan. 8, lawmakers are pushing for legislation that would give students, faculty and staff the right to carry concealed handguns while on campus. Legislation to allow concealed carry on college campuses is pending in 12 states, including Texas, Virginia and Florida, according to Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.
This concept isn’t foreign to universities. Utah has allowed concealed carry on all public college campuses since 2006, and Colorado State University currently allows concealed carry and the school’s student government senate passed a resolution in support of student’s self-protection and second amendment rights. But a case against CSU’s policy will soon be heard by the state’s Supreme Court.
“If you do the math … how many people are in a college classroom? Thirty people typically. So if a person with a firearm has a murderous intent, a person who is willing to commit a felony, the worst kind of felony for that matter, a gun-free zone won’t matter,” Kurt Mueller, the eastern regional director of SCCC, said. “[The fact that] a person cannot murder means nothing.”
In Maryland, statute prohibits concealed carry on all college campuses. As of a policy approved in 2006, Towson University prohibits the possession or control of a weapon while on University property. This includes firearms, paintball and airsoft guns, as well as anything made to resemble a real gun. Resident students and their guests, even those licensed to carry a weapon, cannot have guns in on-campus housing. Exceptions to this policy include sworn peace officers of the university or those employed by other public agencies.
Talks of allowing concealed weapons specifically on Towson’s campus have yet to be brought to the table, according to University Provost Marcia Welsh.
“I can think of no positive outcome of allowing concealed weapons on a college campus,” she said in an e-mail. “I think there is the misconception that students with guns could protect themselves and others against a shooter on a college campus. In reality, perhaps that one student trained as a marksman who could stay calm in such an attack might be able to derail a shooter’s intent. But the changes of having such a student/faculty/administrator who is able to derail such an attack is almost non-existent. The chances are much higher that armed students/faculty/administrators would aggravate the situation.”
Permits for carry anywhere in Maryland are difficult to come by, as recent police documentation of imminent danger must be provided before a request is even considered.
“If you’re in that situation that you’ve actually been able to get a Maryland permit, that threat doesn’t disappear once you cross the college boundary line,” Mueller said. “If you can explain the difference between a sidewalk in downtown Baltimore and on a college campus, you’re smarter than me because I can’t figure that out. A college wont assign a police office to go with you everywhere, they’ll say, ‘If you see a threat, call for help.’ Ten minutes later when police arrive, or five or two or 30 seconds, if the threat is there now, it might be too late 30 seconds from now. The only person you can depend on to protect you is you, and if you don’t have the means to protect yourself that horrible.”
Students who have stricter views on gun control think differently. Co-director of the Progressive Democrats of Towson, Teresa Crenshaw, does not support the idea of carrying concealed weapons on college campuses, but advises students to be aware of their surroundings.
“I think there are mechanisms so that if you feel unsafe you can contact the right people,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a good excuse to take the law into your own hands and become a vigilante and possibly hurt someone.”
Towson University had the lowest amount of total crimes in the University of Maryland System in 2009, and the Towson University Police Department has officers available and patrolling campus 24 hours a day, according to Towson’s website. Emergency sirens, text messaging, e-mail notifications, and blue light phones are current methods of campus protection, while a school-wide lock down procedure in still under review.
Mueller stressed that hurting someone or potentially ending a life is not the goal of allowing concealed carry. While taking down a gun-carrying assailant is not the responsibility of a student, they can help, and Langan agrees.
“If you can stop something stop someone from being harmed in general …you should try your best, but that includes anything from calling the police, flagging down help,” Langan said. “It’s not only pulling out a gun and pulling the trigger.”