Gun Policy Transparency Act is a necessary measure

Daily Editorial Board

Earlier this month, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., introduced legislation that would require colleges and universities to be more transparent about their gun policies — Iif passed, the law would mandate that schools release gun policies alongside other public safety information in their promotional materials.

Current gun policy is largely governed by the Clery Act, which states that schools receiving federal funding must disseminate campus safety information. But the act does not require schools to publish information concerning gun-related policies. In addition, schools are not required to collect statistics on gun crime. The Campus Gun Policy Transparency Act aims to erase this delineation, encompassing gun policy as part of a campus safety.

This policy aligns with most public health experts’ opinions arguing that gun violence is a matter of public health. The American Medical Association almost unanimously adopted a resolution that stated explicitly that the “uncontrolled ownership and use of firearms, especially handguns, is a serious threat to the public’s health.” This is a direct counterargument to current policy, which prevents the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conducting gun violence research.

Rep. Ellison’s bill would also work to create a standardized system for collecting data on gun ownership and firearm presence as it pertains to crime on campus.

We believe that this is a vital step toward gun-free campuses and that policy makers should get behind Rep. Ellison’s proposed legislation. We agree with his argument that students ought to be informed about the gun policies that their campuses enforce as it gives them the option of making informed decisions about which institution they choose to attend.

Campus gun violence is not a trivial issue. In 2010, the official FBI report on violence and crime in institutes of higher learning claimed that guns are used in a notable number of crimes on campuses.

The Clery Act is insufficient when it comes to gun-related matters on campus. While the policy currently requires schools to make campus crime data publicly accessible, it does not require them to disclose the policies that may have impacted those statistics.

In a letter to his fellow colleagues, Ellison argued that, “We put safety ratings on our cars and warning labels on our medications; students should be able to make informed decisions about the safety of their college campuses, too. Americans have a right to know if their fellow students are bringing guns to class.”

Currently, the University of Minnesota bans the possession of firearms on campus from everyone except law enforcement, military personnel or other special exceptions. While the overwhelming majority of institutions don’t allow concealed firearms, some schools in states like Arkansas, Colorado, Mississippi, Texas and Wisconsin permit them on their premises.

We think that students at all institutions should be fully informed about the policies pertaining to gun access and ownership on their respective campuses. Gun control is a matter of public safety, and we demand that policymakers reach across the aisle and help pass Ellison’s legislation.