Rep. Keith Ellison introduces gun policy transparency act

The Representative wants universities and colleges to publish gun policy and gun-related crime data on their websites

Kristina Busch

College and universities nationwide could be required to disclose their gun policies, among other related information, if new legislation is passed.

Earlier this month, Rep. Keith Ellison D-Minn. introduced new legislation that would encourage colleges and universities to be more public about their gun policies. Under the Campus Gun Policy Transparency Act, institutions across the nation would be required to release the school’s gun policies alongside other public safety information on their website and in promotional material.

“The reason I proposed this is I want to give parents and students a fair chance to evaluate the level of safety on their campus,” Ellison said. “If a campus is going to allow gun possession, then that is certainly something parents and students should know.”

Under the Clery Act, public and private universities and colleges that receive federal funding must publish campus safety information, but the Clery Act does not require schools to publish their gun policies or require these institutions to keep statistics on gun-specific crimes.

“Right now, there is an obligation to advise students about safety policies but not on guns,” Ellison said.

Andy Pelosi, executive director of The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, said Ellison contacted him and wanted to know whether gun policies were posted on schools’ websites or in other public places.

He said he encouraged Ellison to find a way to require schools to publish information beyond what is allowed by the Clery Act.

Gun-related crime statistics are not generally available, Pelosi said, but that information is important for state officials to know so they can change laws if issues arise.

“There are many places you wouldn’t want to see guns, like dorms, labs and daycares,” Pelosi said. “It’s a risk factor. We’d like to see other measures like more law enforcement … and escort services to increase safety.”

Since 2013, there have been 196 school shootings nationwide, 3 of which were in Minnesota, according to Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, a nonprofit that advocates for gun control.

According to the group, there have been 35 school shootings nationwide this year.

Currently, gun control advocates say schools are relatively free of gun crimes but fear the problem could grow worse if rules are relaxed.

“A school campus is a pretty safe environment,” Pelosi said. “By allowing people to carry weapons, there will be an increased risk of violence.”

He said he was contacted several months ago by Ellison to gather information about where concealed carry was permitted.

The University of Minnesota does not allow concealed carry or any possession of firearms on campus. Authorization of firearm possession is mostly limited to law enforcement and military personnel.

But director of public relations for Students for Concealed Carry Zachary Zalneraitis said he thinks people should have the option to defend themselves on campus.

“What we’re fighting for is to remove campuses from the list of areas where concealed carry is prohibited,” he said. “We’re just saying that law-abiding adults who already have a concealed carry permit shouldn’t be suddenly disarmed because they cross an invisible property line onto a college campus.”

Zalneraitis said disallowing concealed carry doesn’t stop criminals from illegally bringing firearms to campus, and students should have the right to defend themselves.

“A lot of people that have concealed carry permits are actually adults going back to school or graduate students,” he said. “Most places require you to be 21 years old, pass a background check and take a training class to obtain a concealed carry permit.”

Ellison argues that gun policy should at least be public information because it’s a big factor for students and parents as they decide what school to attend.

“Given the climate we’re in in regards to guns and the strength of the gun lobby, the way we’re going to get a vote will be by students raising the issue with members of Congress across the country,” he said.