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Should Students be permitted to Carry Guns on College Campuses?

Students Packing: iPhone 5; Apple iPad; Apple MacBook Air; and a Gun

The Wall Street Journal reports that at more college campuses across the country, students are winning the right to pack a gun. Many colleges have long been allowed to make their own decisions about whether students can carry firearms on campus, and most still forbid it. But gun-rights advocates working through the courts and state legislatures have managed to secure a significant expansion of gun rights at public universities. Gun-rights advocates argue that only state legislatures—and not colleges and universities—have the power to regulate guns under a legal doctrine known as pre-emption.

A major force behind the push to ease restrictions on guns on campus is an organization called Students for Concealed Carry. Started in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings, the organization has grown to include chapters across the country, and it lobbies state lawmakers and school officials to allow people with proper permits to carry guns on campus.

David Burnett, the group's national spokesman and also a nursing student at the University of Kentucky, said he believes anyone who is responsible, law-abiding and trained should carry a gun. "If criminals knew that, they'd be more hesitant to attack".

I've never been a believer in the notion that the knowledge others' are packing a weapon might slow down the rising trend of violence on college campuses and on our streets. Violence begets more violence. We live in a violent society. It is depicted all the time on the internet, in video games, television, and in the movies. The answer is not to put guns in the hands of more citizens, although I do understand the emotional response of families devasted by killings that touch home for the need for "justice" to be served, albeit sometimes couched in the form of a revenge motive.

On March 6, 2012, undoubtedly motivated by the killing of 12 students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999, the highest court in Colorado struck down the University of Colorado's gun ban. And, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled in September 2011 that the state's Board of Higher Education had no authority to prohibit weapons on college campuses.

In both cases, the courts declined to consider whether the Second Amendment empowers students to carry weapons on campus. Instead, they held that state laws largely removed the matter from universities' control.

Students are now permitted by law to carry guns on public campuses in five states—four more than two years ago. The movement to ease gun restrictions on college campuses gained momentum after the 2007 killings at Virginia Tech, with advocates arguing that students, if armed, would have been able to stop the shooter who left 32 people dead.

Until the carnage at Virginia Tech, the 1966 sniping rampage by Charles Whitman from the University of Texas’s Austin campus landmark 307-foot tower had remained the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history. Whitman, a former university student, opened fire from the 28th-floor observation deck, shooting people on the streets 231 feet below. Sixteen people were killed and another 31 were wounded before police killed him about 90 minutes later.

Other killings include on April 3, 2012, when a student at the small, private, Oikos University in Oakland, California allegedly killed seven people at the college's campus; the student told authorities he was upset with being expelled and had sought out a female college official who was not present.

Earlier on in 2008, a gunman opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University killing five people and injuring 17 before turning the gun on himself.

As a college professor I am concerned about the possibility of my students packing a gun along with their electronic devices. I realize it is no laughing matter but my mind can’t stop obsessing on a student I once had who argued for ten minutes about a grade even though, after reviewing his paper, I refused more than once, to change it. He seemed to feel entitled to the higher grade even though he didn’t earn it. Or the student who stormed out of my office after I told him to study harder and party less after he smelled of alcohol in an office meeting.

I hate to think about it but might have those students threatened my life with the gun they were packing if California passed a concealed weapon law that permits college student to carry a gun on college campuses?

The answers to growing violence in our streets and on college campuses are complicated. The sad part is neither of the Presidential candidates appears to want to address the issue. To me it is one of the most important issues facing our nation. One sign of a civilized society is in solving problems through discourse and not violence. Have we become so de-sensitized to violence that we have forgotten the message that a civilized society that can no longer feel outrage, can no longer be civilized?

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on September 25, 2012