Guns on Campus: Safety, Liberty, or Insanity?
Published: Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Updated: Thursday, December 8, 2011 14:12
Imagine walking into a classroom, looking at your classmates, and not knowing who may or may not be carrying a gun. If some people get their way, that could soon be the case.
Creating a storm across New Hampshire universities is a recent bill that would prevent public universities from having policies that would prohibit students from exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms. If House Bill 334 is passed when it goes up for vote in the House in January, it could affect all public universities as well as public facilities in New Hampshire.
The recent controversial bill in New Hampshire legislature, HB 334, has been seeing lots of attention from Plymouth State University students and faculty members. The bill would essentially not allow public New Hampshire colleges and universities to ban firearms on campus. Theoretically, if the bill is passed, any student or faculty member will be able to carry a concealed weapon anywhere on campus. The bill promotes the individual rights of New Hampshire citizens as well as the safety benefits of carrying a firearm.
The idea of an armed student body is unsettling to many members of the campus community. Many PSU professors are uncomfortable with the idea of their students being allowed to carry a concealed weapon. Not only do firearms present a huge safety concern, many believe that they will change the very atmosphere of the classroom. Being unsure of whether or not a student or faculty member is armed may turn out to be unsettling and distracting, hindering the performance of both students and professors. If the bill were to pass, students would go through a process, background check included, in order to acquire a concealed weapon permit allowing them to carry a firearm unbeknownst to the students and faculty.
Leo Sandy, a professor at Plymouth State University, is outraged by the possibility of this bill passing, calling it "the most ludicrous" bill he has ever heard of, saying that guns would "poison the classroom atmosphere and contribute to the climate of fear that we have enough of in this country."
The University System of New Hampshire is on the same side of the fence as Sandy, opposing the passage of this bill. The goal of PSU and other USNH schools is to push for an amendment to the bill that will exempt the state's colleges and universities from falling subject to the conditions of the bill.
Currently, the public universities in New Hampshire have the ability to decide whether or not they want to allow firearms on campus. The PSU Administration has chosen not to allow any citizen to carry firearms on school grounds.
Their official statement is as follows, "Purpose: A safe and secure working and learning environment is a top priority for Plymouth State University. To support this commitment to safety for all students, faculty, staff, and visitors, use and possession of all firearms, other dangerous weapons intended to inflict injury, or explosives are prohibited on any property owned, controlled or operated by Plymouth State University." HB 334 would make the administration's decision null and void.
Dr. Francis Williams, a professor in the Criminal Justice department, pointed out that New Hampshire isn't the first state to deal with this issue, and many other states have already allowed concealed weapons on college campuses. Some gun activists such as Bradley Jarvis are pushing against these weapons regulations saying that such a policy "violates NH RSA 159:26, New Hampshire's firearm and knife preemption law."
Safety is a core piece of HB 334. Advocates of the bill believe that an armed individual is much safer than an unarmed individual, furthermore the idea of an armed student body may dissuade other individuals from committing crimes on campus. While this idea may hold true, accidents involving guns are often deadly. PSU students should have the ability to protect themselves against any threat of violence, however there are many non-lethal ways to defend yourself.
Students, parents, and teachers are all concerned over issues ranging from personal safety, to maturity, to theft. Theft is common on college campuses, and concerns have been raised whether that would become more of an issue with weapons allowed on campus especially since, as Williams said, the majority of guns used in crime have been stolen. If the University were forced to take new security measures to prevent these kinds of crimes and protect their liability, there would be an increased possibility of yet another rise in tuition.
Williams teaches in a discipline where he says most of his students "already own or at some point will own firearms," and while he says the passing of the bill wouldn't necessarily make him feel less safe, it would always be in the back of his mind that any of his students may be carrying a gun, especially knowing the pressure students can be under. He also says that the well known phrase "guns don't kill people, people kill people," is a cop-out, and this issue should be taken seriously.
Sandy urges students and faculty to "take all steps to prevent [the bill's] passage," and our university representatives will continue to work toward the addition of an amendment that will exempt college campuses and welcome "respectful dialogue" in both opposition and support of the issue while they are doing so.