Earlier this year, the CSU Faculty Council helped kick off a campus-wide – and, in some respects, state-wide — debate by asking the university administration to re-examine CSU policy regarding concealed carry on the CSU campus.
Concealed carry is legal authorization for private citizens to carry hidden weapons — usually handguns — on their person when they go out in public. Currently, this law and campus policy authorizes individuals with a permit to carry concealed weapons while they’re on campus.
In response to the Faculty Council’s request, a policy has been drafted that would significantly curtail or even entirely end the ability of individuals with proper Colorado concealed carry licenses to carry on campus.
Guns on campus are a heated issue, particularly after recent campus shootings at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and elsewhere, and it’s understandable why some people would be nervous about them. I’m rather frightened of handguns myself.
But particularly in a state like Colorado, discussing restrictions on guns is bound to raise some controversy, and indeed it has.
Some have raised the concern that the presence of guns is not consistent with the vigorous, and sometimes passionate, academic debate that should happen on a university campus and that the presence of guns could be intimidating.
However, not only are concealed weapons just that: concealed. Colorado concealed carry permit holders have to complete a thorough background check and safety training, and the rate of incidents among concealed carry permit holders across the U.S. is extremely low.
Furthermore, since there isn’t data on how many permit holders there are in the campus community, we don’t know whether this policy change would affect five people or 500.
It’s also worth considering who obtains these permits and why; many are well-trained former military and police officers who obtain them for an added measure of security, and many others are former victims of rape, domestic violence or hate crimes.
The clear intent as expressed in other portions of state law relating to guns is to allow individuals the ability to defend themselves.
Many who oppose gun control argue that, when you outlaw guns, only criminals will have them. But even if concealed carry is banned on campus, CSU campus police offers will still be carrying guns around campus every day, a tacit recognition that guns can be a reasonable and appropriate tool in responding to certain situations.
Guns can be horrible tools in the hands of criminals, but such madmen won’t be deterred by mere campus policies. So the question is: What would the effect of prohibiting concealed carry on campus be?
My sense is that it would deprive members of our campus community of a tool that they could use to defend themselves if the unthinkable happened.
It’s also worth remembering that the CSU campus isn’t just the area bounded by Prospect, Laurel, Shields and College. We have many outlying facilities such as the Vet Hospital, Foothills Campus and Pingree Park.
While CSU police typically responds within minutes to incidents on the main campus, it can take much longer in these other areas, leaving students, faculty and staff without appropriate tools to defend themselves — tools that Colorado voters and lawmakers have already declared in state law to be appropriate, and one of the tools that police themselves would respond to these incidents with.
I won’t lie; the presence of guns, even those carried by a police officer, makes me feel nervous. But knowing — especially if I were to be on one of these outlying campuses in the event of a horrific event — that I’d be totally depending on the long wait for police to respond makes me feel helpless.
Given the choice, I’ll cope with my nervousness about guns and support the continuation of concealed carry on campus.
Seth Anthony is a chemistry graduate student. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.