A group of students at Old Dominion University, who say they are worried about their safety, want the right to carry concealed handguns on campus and have turned to the social media to promote the campaign. They’ve started a Facebook page, but so far have gained little traction on campus. The effort did win support, however, from individuals and groups in Virginia and around the country that habitually advocate policies that allow just about anyone in any place or circumstance to carry a concealed weapon. Such advocacy is misplaced. Guns have no place on the Norfolk or any other collegiate campus.
A majority of states, including Tennessee and Georgia, wisely ban or significantly restrict weapons on campus, despite repeated and well-financed campaigns bankrolled directly or indirectly by the gun lobby to rescind such rules. Most of the nation’s colleges and universities, including those in states where the rules are more lax, acknowledge the bans as a matter of policy — and rightly so. The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is typical. Its student handbook explicitly bans guns, along with alcohol and drugs, on campus. Possession is a felony.
That makes sense. There’s no reason for students, faculty or staff, other than sworn officers, to carry a weapon. Most campuses are quite safe with little violent crime reported. The addition of firearms would make them less so.
That’s especially the case at schools with large resident populations. There, the mixture of alcohol, crowded dorms and hormone-induced emotions often creates volatile situations that sometimes get out of hand but rarely lead to serious injury or death. The addition of firearms to the mix would change that for the worse. The possibility of gunplay rather than fisticuffs, for example, to resolve a perceived insult or to end an altercation could lead to tragedy.
That doesn’t deter concealed carry proponents. They continue to trot out old, tired arguments in support of their cause. They argue that campus gun bans don’t deter shooters or criminals. They say that they strip students of the right to defend themselves. They’re quick to point to tragic incidents like the shootings at Virginia Tech to support their case. Those arguments, though, aren’t supported by fact.
The fact is that colleges and universities are much safer than the communities around them and that the availability of guns is unlikely to improve that. One Justice Department study reported that 93 percent of violence against college students age 18 to 24 occurs off campus. That, no doubt, is due to the fact that almost all U.S. colleges and universities currently ban or severely limit firearm possession on campus. That’s consistent with well vetted research into gun-related violence.
Numerous studies have shown that whenever guns are introduced into an environment — like the home or the workplace — the result typically is more gun deaths and injuries. It stands to reason, then, that allowing guns on campus would increase, not reduce, the risk of violence to students, faculty and staff. That’s a lesson that Old Dominion students and concealed carry and gun advocates don’t want to acknowledge, but should take to heart.