Letter to the Editor: Concealed handguns on college campuses

Earl E. McDowell, Ph.D, University of Minnesota professor emeritus

Since the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy in the 1960s, I have been writing and speaking about gun control. In 1964, I debated the issue at Clarion State College. In 1971, I wrote my master’s thesis on the gun issue. In 2007, my book, “America’s Great Gun Game: Gun Ownership vs Americans’ Safety,” was published. For the past 40 years I have published numerous letters on the gun issue in newspapers, including the Minnesota Daily. I also taught speech communication courses in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of Minnesota from 1974 through 2010. When I taught public speaking classes, students were required to present a speech of controversy. I estimate that more than 200 students selected the gun issue.

I will briefly review the history of concealed weapons in the United States.

In 1824, President James Madison, author of the Second Amendment, and President Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, believed that guns had no place on college campuses. Today, pro-gun politicians cannot avoid the fact that these founding fathers banned firearms for the universities they founded. They would not have allowed faculty, staff and students to carry loaded handguns on campus.

Adam Winkler, author of “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Fight to Bear Arms in America,” asserted that the Wild West had more gun control than we do today. Frontier towns established strict gun-control measures. After the assassination of President James Garfield, the general public asserted that concealed weapons were a primary cause of gun deaths.

An editorial published in the New York Times in December 1923 asserted, “Guns should be carefully regulated. The problem is how to keep them out of the hands of man killers.” In the 1920s the FBI determined that of the 10,000 murders committed annually, 90% were committed with handguns.

Many journalists have written about how easy access to cheap guns enabled criminals to kill with ease.

In the 1930s, Attorney General Homer Cummings reported 75 percent of murders were committed with concealed weapons.

Despite attempts to pass gun legislation over the past 100 years, 1.2 million people have been killed with handguns. My research indicates that only 20% of gun owners have permits to carry concealed guns.

During June 2003, the Minnesota Daily published several letters on conceal and carry laws. John E. Caile, communication director for the Minnesota pro-gun right activist group Minnesota Concealed Carry Reform, NOW, published an opinion piece in the Minnesota Daily in which he characterized gun control supporters as “segregationist, vigilantes and whiners.” I was offended by his condescending comments about President Bob Bruininks who proposed a gun ban at the university. I wrote an opinion piece “Ban Concealed Weapons at the U”, which was published as a web exclusive in the Minnesota Daily.

The good news is that on July 11, 2003, the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents approved a policy that limits concealed weapons on campus. University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg told the Minnesota Daily the university gun ban is on legally “solid ground” because of the institution’s constitutional autonomy. “Under policy students, employees and visitors are prohibited from carrying weapons on University property or at U functions.” Students feel the gun policy improves campus safety.

In 2021, there are over one hundred million handguns in the United States. Sugarman, author of “Every Handgun Is Aimed at You,” asserted, “The handgun explosion of the past 50 years has injected lethality via concealability into every corner of society from our homes to our schools, highways, places of worship, and shopping centers.” Research indicates that handguns pose a disastrous threat to our freedom.

On July 18, 2021, the Star Tribune published an article titled, “Crime Surge Jars University” by Ryan Faircloth and Jeff Hargarten. They reported criminal incidents have surged around the University. Police Department data shows “criminal incidents … surrounding the U reached the highest point in at least a decade this past academic year.”
In addition, crime in Dinkytown and other University neighborhoods rose 40%. Robberies doubled and aggravated assaults increased by 20%.

In this same article, Janette, a University student, stated: “There was a time I walked everywhere alone … I never even imagined being robbed or threatened or shot at.”

University President Joan Gabel told the Board of Regents: “Safety is not accomplished solely through an increased presence of law enforcement.” She indicated that the University plans to install additional security cameras in Dinkytown, add more emergency phone boxes that connect students to campus police, and is “… considering creating a safety ambassador program in which citizens would help patrol the Dinkytown area.”

The National Council for Home Safety and Security ranked the safety of the University of Minnesota as 199 out of 243 with 10,000 or more students. The University is in the bottom 20%, and it needs to address this problem.

As reported in the Daily, the University hosted a gun violence town hall. It is good news that the University joined the nationwide discussion on gun violence. University Professor, Dr. Steve Miles, indicated, “There are too many guns in the community.” Former Minneapolis Board of Education and City Council member, Don Samuels, concluded, “We’re just a sick country.”

I am pleased to read that students, faculty members and community members are engaged in discussions on the gun issue at the University. My research indicates that more than 80% of registered voters support licensing handguns owners and more than 90% favor criminal background checks for all handgun purchases.

Finally, on August 10, 2021, a Minnesota gun group sued the State Fair, demanding permit holders to be allowed to carry handguns at the event. It is possible that hundreds of people could have carried concealed guns into the Fairgrounds. What do you think?