For and Against: Guns on Campus

After last week’s Janus Forum debate on D.C. v. Heller, we invited two opinions columnists to debate a small yet salient facet of the gun control debate: the prohibition of firearms on college campuses. After the jump, read Michael Fitzpatrick’s ’12 argument in favor of allowing students to carry personal firearms on campus and Dan Davidson’s ’11 argument against. Then share your opinion, blogdailyherald readers, in the comments section.

After the 1995 Supreme Court decision U.S. v. Lopez overturned the Gun-Free School Zones Act, most states and universities enacted legislation and internal policies prohibiting firearms on college campuses.  Currently, only a small handful of college and universities in the United States allow students and faculty to carry guns. In past few years, however, several states have proposed changes to the laws governing guns on college campuses. Despite wide media coverage, these bills failed in every state but one: in 2007, Utah repealed the prohibition on campus firearms, claiming that allowing students to defend themselves would reduce, rather than increase, on-campus gun violence. Check out the for and against arguments by our opinions columnists, then tell us what you think: should students be permitted to carry firearms on campus?

— Alyssa Ratledge ’11, Opinions Editor

From a legal standpoint, students with gun licenses are no different from any other licensed citizens. Students meeting state and federal gun control measures and licensing procedures, including minimum age requirements, waiting periods and training programs, should be able to carry guns. Prohibiting students who can legally carry firearms from doing so suggests that universities mistrust state gun regulation, which means that the state has not taken sufficient measures to ensure the safety of its citizens.

The right for licensed students to carry concealed firearms on college campuses is a legitimate argument for their common-law right to self-defense. It’s more than a Constitutional privilege; it’s a biological imperative. To protect oneself from assault, it is necessary to have an advantage over aggressors. No one can control the circumstances of an assault, nor can one control whether or not an assailant possesses a (probably illegal) firearm. It is likely that if an assailant is willing to rob, rape or murder, he or she is willing to use an unlawfully possessed firearm to gain leverage. Permitting students to carry concealed firearms can at least change the status quo in the students’ favor, if they are properly trained.

— Michael Fitzpatrick ’12, Opinions Columnist

Providence, although far safer than many other cities, is not the safest place in the world. I can understand why some argue students should be able to carry guns to protect themselves. Allowing guns on campus would only serve to undermine our safety, however, not heighten it.

Sensible people recognize that guns and alcohol can be a deadly combination. It is dangerous to assume that on a college campus — where drinking is virtually omnipresent — allowing guns wouldn’t lay the groundwork for horrific tragedy. Think about the last time you found yourself in a dorm room with a bunch of drunken people. Would you honestly have no reservations about the room’s occupant keeping a gun in the closet?

Even on dry campuses, the presence of guns increases the risk of a serious or deadly accident and suicide. Guns are dangerous enough in the homes of responsible citizens. Introducing them into the college environment — where both theft and alcohol consumption are prevalent — is a recipe for disaster.

— Dan Davidson ’11, Opinions Columnist

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