Recently, a rash of attacks on and near campus occurred in the early morning hours, and law enforcement caught several of the perpetrators — eventually. While previous incidents on and near campus have typically involved attacks on intoxicated individuals, the recent alleged crimes were targeted at groups, not individuals — sober groups, at that — and now this.
By now, most have heard of the alleged armed robbery on campus Tuesday afternoon in a school building. The University of Minnesota’s policy against weapons on campus, making campus a gun-free zone, is not working. A new solution is required — or rather an old solution, a solution our nation was founded on.
Criminals have come to view the University as easy pickings, in part because students are notoriously unaware of their surroundings. More importantly, this is because criminals know that University students are unarmed when on or near campus. While University facilities may not be labeled as gun-free zones, it’s common knowledge that the University bans students from carrying handguns for self-defense. And while this ban is in accordance with Minnesota law, it is in violation of the concept of the right to self-defense enshrined in the Second Amendment.
Let me be clear: Allowing permit holders to carry a gun on campus without stigma would not turn the campus into the Wild West, as some seem to claim. Permit holders are only allowed to draw or use their sidearm as a last resort to save another’s life or their own. If someone were to draw their firearm or wave it around, they’d likely be arrested for terroristic threats or a dangerous weapon offense in a heartbeat, and they’d possibly have their permit revoked.
Some people also bring up the issue of training, claiming that your average 21-year-old is not responsible enough to carry a firearm. What about student veterans, some of whom have spent more time with a gun in their hands than many freshman students have behind the wheel of a car? What about students who have grown up around guns and have been hunting and shooting since they were old enough to safely handle the recoil (probably around 8 years old)?
Some say school is a stressful environment and mixing guns would just lead to needless deaths. Again, veterans have lived with immense stress loads and learned to handle them — as have others.
To return to the Wild West concern, most permit holders keep their sidearm concealed out of basic courtesy and to avoid confusion. More importantly, permit holders have already submitted to an FBI background check at their own expense. They must prove that they have never been convicted of a felony or a host of misdemeanors, including assault. They cannot obtain a permit if they have ever had a mental illness. They must also refrain from using alcohol or drugs while carrying — or risk losing their permit.
In addition, permit holders have undergone training for weapon handling, safety and, more importantly, rules of engagement, meaning when they’re allowed to use their weapon and when they are not. They’re only allowed to draw and use their sidearm if there is an imminent danger of loss of life or severe bodily harm — in essence, if they think they are about to die or land in the emergency room.
Another common argument is that mixing guns with the alcohol-fueled parties on campus is a bad idea. No one would disagree that it would be a bad combination, but it’s already a crime to drink and carry. In fact, the blood alcohol concentration limit to carry is .04, half the limit to drive under the influence. If a student is carrying, they won’t be drinking — not if they want to keep their permit.
In addition to allowing responsible carry on campus, pepper spray and Tasers should be as available on campus as bike helmets are at Boynton Health Services. However, both may be ineffective, especially if an attacker is under the influence of drugs. This is further reason that permit holders should be allowed to carry for their own defense and the defense of others.
In conclusion, there is a host of reasons for University administration to allow responsible, law-abiding students with a permit to carry a firearm on campus and not a single reason not to. I call on President Eric Kaler to address this violation of our basic rights, of common sense and our ability to defend ourselves, and to retract the rule banning lawful carry on campus.