Firearms on campus

The University’s exemption to state conceal and carry laws doesn’t create a safer campus.

 

I believe that the recent proposal by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, of the Minnesota House of Representatives to allow those who have a permit to carry a handgun in Minnesota to also carry on campus makes sense. Currently it is not against state law for an individual to carry on campus, but the University of Minnesota has its own policy of prohibiting possession on University property.

What is the justification for the exception? Does one who is considered by the state to be a responsible firearm carrier off campus suddenly become irresponsible simply by entering campus? What is the rationale for the Board of Regents to have its own fiefdom of gun regulation independent from the state’s rules?

The University can only properly enforce this policy against students and employees of the school, whom it can expel from college or fire from their job. Since this isn’t a concern to anyone else, those permit holders not affiliated with the school can carry on campus without punishment. Why is it good policy to disarm students and University staff while allowing anyone else to be armed? Why has the Board of Regents pursued this policy? Ostensibly, it is an effort to make students safer, but is this really the case? Similar policies have not stopped shootings in other parts of the country.

The school in Connecticut was a “gun-free” zone. In Aurora, Colo., the shooter had a choice of seven movie theaters within a 20-minute drive of his home that were showing the Batman movie he was obsessed with. The Cinemark Theater the killer ultimately chose wasn’t the closest, but it was the only one that posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns. All of the other theaters allowed Colorado adults who have a concealed handgun permit to enter with their weapons.

Indeed with just one single exception, the attack on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns. With these facts in mind, it is fair to question whether preventing legal handgun owners from carrying their gun in places like University grounds makes those areas safer.

We can have a legitimate debate about how we want to regulate guns in our society, but that debate should take place at the state Legislature where it belongs. The law that applies to the rest of Minnesota should apply to campus as well, without exceptions.