Students call for campus carry

A few conservative student groups led a discussion in Coffman this week in order to open a dialogue about opening up University policy to allow guns on campus.

by Anne Millerbernd

Thursday marks the final day of a four-day informational event in Coffman Union to advocate for carrying of guns on the University of Minnesota campus.

The University’s College Republicans student group is leading the event, “Allow Campus Carry,” to spark conversation on the University’s current policy, which bans guns on campus.

Susan Eckstein, the group’s chair, said she organized the event with the aim of starting discussion among students, faculty and staff.

“The conversation’s kind of always been going within our groups,” she said. “But we’re just trying to reach those students who maybe don’t know that much about the issue or faculty who are in support of it but don’t really say anything.”

Minnesota is one of 22 states that allow universities to decide their policy on conceal-and-carry laws.

The uptick in crime on and around campus this fall partially prompted the event, Eckstein said, but her group consistently has conversations about the Second Amendment.

Shelley Leeson, director of the Twin Cities Gun Owners and Carry Forum, helped put on the event.

“There have been a lot of reports about violent crime on campus,” she said. “And I think it’s just really important that students have access … to effective crime deterrence and self-defense.”

University student groups Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow and Young Americans For Liberty co-hosted the event, along with The Minnesota Republic — a conservative magazine — and the state’s College Republicans organization.

Some groups also brought gun activists to speak at their meetings this week, CFACT President Rachel Jansen said.

A petition asking the Board of Regents to review the University’s gun policy was available throughout the week for passersby to sign on the table the group set up in Coffman. Eckstein said that, combined with the number online, it had more than 200 signatures as of Wednesday night.

The University issued a statement from General Counsel William Donohue in response to the event, saying the institution doesn’t plan to revisit its policy.

“It was the judgment of the Board that this policy is the best way to promote health, safety and welfare on the University campuses,” the statement said.

Leeson said she’s not surprised by the University’s response. She said her group’s aim is to educate people about what it means to have a permit and carry a handgun.

But with enough time and effort over the next few years, Leeson said, she thinks it’s possible to change the University’s policy.