Law-abiding students should be able to bear arms

Law-abiding students should be able to bear arms

SONY DSCLast year, Mississippi and Wisconsin passed laws that allow licensed gun owners to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. Similar measures are now being considered in Texas and Arkansas, as policymakers at the state and federal level continue to debate and discuss changes to gun laws.

Here at The University of Alabama, though, we don’t need the state legislature, Congress, or the Supreme Court to make sensible changes to gun policy. We can do it ourselves.

Alabama is one of 23 states that allows universities to decide if individuals can carry concealed weapons on their campuses. The University of Alabama has decided they can’t. That policy can and should be changed.

(See also "On-campus residents must register guns")

Since 2004, Utah has allowed concealed-carry on public college campuses, and in the past two years, courts in Colorado and Oregon have struck down university policies that prohibited concealed-carry.

So far, no harm has been caused by concealed-carry on those campuses. However, there are several examples of college-aged permit holders using concealed weapons successfully to defend themselves.

In 2009, for instance, a group of students taken hostage by two masked intruders at a party in College Park, Ga., were ultimately freed when one of the students pulled a firearm out of his backpack and began shooting at the kidnappers.

Such stories are commonplace, and reflect a mountain of statistical evidence that suggest more guns in the hands of responsible citizens deter crime. A 2003 study published in the Stanford Law Review found that murder rates decline by between 1.5 and 2.5 percent for each additional year a right-to-carry law is in effect.

Despite the proven impact concealed carry laws have had on reducing crime, allowing guns on college campuses still seems like a stretch for a lot of students and faculty members. Some are reluctant to sacrifice the false sense of security provided by “gun-free zones,” while others have legitimate concerns that mixing guns and college is a recipe for danger.

In Alabama, though, individuals have to be at least 21 years old to obtain a permit to carry concealed weapons. Most students that age do not live on campus. The University could allow concealed-carry on campus and still prohibit storing weapons in dorms.

Alternatively, the University could give concealed-carry permit holders who still live on campus the option of renting a UA-approved safe to store their weapons, and even conduct random inspections to make sure the weapons are secure.

Gun skeptics are not just worried about the dorms, though. Mark Timmons, a UA junior majoring in civil engineering, summed up the concerns many students have when he told The Crimson White earlier this week that no one should carry a gun on campus regardless of whether they have a permit.

The greatest tragedy would be for students to find themselves in a situation where they needed a concealed weapon but don’t have one because of UA’s policy.

UA students with concealed-carry permits can already take their handguns everywhere they go off campus. If licensed college students possessing handguns are really a threat to public safety, then we are in danger every time we leave the University’s borders.

Far from being a threat to public safety, though, law-abiding gun owners are perhaps its greatest ally. The simple act of applying for a concealed-carry permit implies an individual has a certain level of respect for the law. After all, most criminals intent on using weapons to harm others don’t start by asking the sheriff’s department for permission to carry the weapon.

Additionally, in the state of Alabama, law enforcement officials can deny permits to individuals they deem untrustworthy. Every concealed-carry permit holder has already been screened by their county sheriff and must reapply for their permit annually.

For permission to use a permit on campus, UA could conduct additional background checks and even require a gun safety course, as the Mississippi law requires. Other University policies, like requiring students without concealed-carry permits to store their firearms at UAPD, could remain in place.

What shouldn’t remain in place is the University’s indiscriminate ban on defensive weapons that prevents law-abiding students from carrying guns in self-defense, while doing nothing to deter criminals who disregard the rules and the law.

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