How would you feel if the person sitting next to you right now had a gun in their lap?
I’m not talking about a madman armed with an assault rifle here, just an average student, surfing Facebook next to you in lecture, with a holstered pistol (maybe a small Beretta or Colt) on his belt. Would you be terrified? Or just shrug it off?
The right to carry a firearm on campus is an incredibly contentious topic, with activists on both sides of the debate arguing that campus would be safer if things went their way.
With events like Virginia Tech fresh on students’ minds, the debate has only increased with time.
The recent crime wave on and near Tech’s campus has the student population looking into new ways to deter crime and defend itself. Currently, both Tech’s policies and state laws absolutely forbid the possession of a firearm or weapon on Tech’s campus.
By Georgia state law, bringing a firearm within 1000 feet of any college campus is a felony punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and 2-10 years in prison.
“Anyone, student or otherwise, who is found to be in possession of a firearm (or any other weapon listed in the code section as restricted) will be charged accordingly,” said Officer Ian Mayberry of the GTPD.
However, some, both on and off campus, are pushing for a change here. Some gun-rights advocates argue that current laws encourage crime on campus, in that an area where students carrying valuables are guaranteed to exist and weaponry is guaranteed not to is an irresistible target.
It’s quite possible the idea of armed students would deter potential criminals, but it’s also entirely possible that the presence of firearms would make a fatal run-in more likely.
With the stakes so high, many students feel that risking the change simply wouldn’t be worth it. Nicole Bond, a third-year Computer Science major, feels that these policies should stay the way they are: sans guns.
“I just wouldn’t feel safe with guns on campus,” said Bond.
Not all students feel the same way, though. Evan Wise, a fourth-year Mechanical Engineering major, feels that the right to carry a weapon would make campus safer.
“People are always going to have guns, so when you take a specific area like a college and say, ‘We don’t think anyone should have guns here,’ you’re just changing the behavior of people who want to obey the law,” said Wise.
Wise argues that the possibility of running into an armed student would, at the very least, make criminals think before coming to Tech’s campus.
According to the website, concealedcampus.com, an activist group aiming to legalize concealed weapons on college campuses, “College campuses, though typically safe, do play host to every type of violent crime found in the rest of society, from assault to rape to murder. Recent high-profile shootings and armed abductions on college campuses clearly demonstrate that ‘gun free zones’ serve to disarm only those law-abiding citizens who might otherwise be able to protect themselves.”
Still, it seems as if the majority of students are still uncomfortable with the idea of firearms on campus, yet many are dead against guns on campus.
Many, including Bond, seemed unconvinced that allowing students to carry a concealed weapon would do anything to increase security. Concern for an increased possibility of a fatal encounter seemed to balance out any extra feeling of safety the presence of firearms on campus might offer.
Organizations like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence cite evidence that this might well be a valid concern.
According to their site, “The number of crime victims who successfully use firearms to defend themselves is quite small. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports and the Centers for Disease Control, out of 30,694 Americans who died by gunfire in 2006, only 192 were shot in justifiable homicides by private citizens with firearms.
Police officers know that the very sight of a gun can escalate a situation, so that instead of simply losing your wallet, you can lose your life.
That’s why many law enforcement organization – including the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and the International Association of Chiefs of Police – opposes the weakening of CCW laws.