Campus carry advocate Antonia Okafor has written an excellent opinion piece for the New York Times called “Why I Bring My Gun to School.” In it she talks about her experiences in attending graduate-level night classes at the University of Texas, Dallas and having to rely on a rape whistle and a phone for protection. Thus, in 2015 when Texas began debating a campus carry bill she became involved in the effort to advocate for its passage.
Campus carry bills and laws vary by state, but the basic core is that they allow those with concealed carry licenses to carry firearms on campus grounds and property. Typically, there are areas designated off-limits (in Georgia, for example, dorms, athletic events, places where disciplinary hearings are held, and classes which have high schoolers in attendance are all off-limits). To obtain a concealed carry permit, a person must be 21 years of age or older (with some exceptions), pass a background check, and – in some states – undergo training.
The rationale for campus carry is the same as that for concealed carry in general: the fact that firearms are likely being carried by some proportion of law-abiding citizens tends to deter criminals. Concealed carriers therefore help provide greater security to an area even without having to actually use their firearms. Thus, even if a person does not carry a firearm themselves, they benefit from the presence of concealed carry laws.
College campuses, in particular, are in need of the type of deterrent that concealed carry provides. I attended a major university in Atlanta from 1996 to 2001. The area has changed for the better now, but still faces the challenges typical of big cities. During my time there, my car was broken into twice, a friend was robbed at gunpoint, a pizza deliveryman was killed in a robbery, and many other people were victimized on, or just off, campus. My female friends would travel in groups for fear of being assaulted. These types of problems are commonplace on campuses across the nation. In addition, Okafor mentions the risk of sexual assault and the statistic that one in five college women are assaulted. Many people, as she points out, do not think the number is this high, but I believe it is.
The argument for campus carry is to help make these places safer places for students. Even if the students are too young to obtain a concealed carry permit or if they are prohibited from keeping firearms in their dorms, they will benefit from campus carry laws due to the deterrent effect.
It is easy for those who don’t have to deal with crime on, or around, college campuses to contend that “guns will make the campus less safe.” I have news for them, though: there are already guns on campus. The problem is just that the criminals have them and there are far too few good men and women with guns around to deter them. Campus carry is an effort to rectify that situation.