By Caitlin O’Shei
The notion that college students, adults in the eyes of the law in every other way, are too childish or irresponsible to be allowed to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms is insulting. Why is a college campus any different than a movie theatre, restaurant, or office? Why would a college student not be afforded the same rights as a peer of the same age who is not attending college? Not allowing college students with a state issued conceal carry permit exercise their right to self-defense while on campus is illogical, and the knee jerk emotional arguments of opponents of campus carry do not stand up to scrutiny.
Opponents of campus carry often reference the higher rates of drinking in college as a reason to disarm students. This argument is flawed on multiple levels. First, from a legal perspective; carrying while under the influence is already illegal. Our system should not deprive people of their rights because they belong to a group of people the government thinks is more likely to commit a crime, especially considering concealed carry permit holders have been proven to be significantly more law abiding than the average citizen. Second, from a pragmatic standpoint, drinking often occurs at parties off campus, which a campus carry ban has no impact on. Third, college students who go through the requirements to obtain a concealed carry permit understand the great responsibility that comes with carrying a gun and will act accordingly. Of the over 150 schools that allow concealed carry on campus, not one has experienced a single resulting act of violence or suicide for the past 20 years by a permittee. Clearly concealed carry does not make campuses less safe.
People who are unfamiliar with guns often claim that allowing students to carry would have a negative impact on free speech and the learning environment. This is ludicrous for three major reasons. First, by definition concealed carry is just that, concealed. It is folly to believe a firearm that nobody is aware of could have an impact on the culture of a classroom.
Second, any student that is willing to threaten or commit violence in a classroom is not going to care if they are technically allowed to carry or not. Our collective experience with concealed carry over the past three decades shows that while criminals almost always illegally carry guns, legal permit holders are actually far less likely to commit crimes than the average person.
It is not reasonable to restrict a constitutional right to spare others feelings. It is the responsibility of the gun owner to make sure that the gun is safe, not that everyone around them feels safe. The same people willing to restrict student’s rights to carry based off others’ feelings would lose their minds if a university decided Muslim students could not exercise their freedom of religion and pray on campus because it made others feel unsafe. As a society we have largely decided that rights are not subject to the whims of majority emotion, why should the second amendment be any different?
In light of mass shootings on college campuses, it is completely immoral to force students to remain vulnerable to attack. Shootings like the one at Virginia Tech show that a deranged individual can take many innocent lives before the police arrive. Armed college students can react to the threat of a mass shooter immediately and potentially save themselves and others. Furthermore, prohibiting campus carry does nothing to stop a mass shooter intent on murder, it only condemns others to helpless victimhood.
Sexual assault on campus has been a subject of much debate lately. More and more cases have come to light which show administrations cannot properly defend their students against sexual assault. As a result, many administrations have implemented programs such as police call boxes and courses which teach about consent. However, without allowing women to exercise their right to self-defense, these programs are empty and ineffective. Sitting around talking about consent will do nothing to stop a true sexual predator. Police escorts and emergency call buttons cannot stop all assaults. Furthermore, these efforts only aim to protect, rather than empower women. If we truly want to combat the threat of sexual assault on college campuses, we must stop asking women to choose between being an easy target and risking expulsion.
Our society should not be allowed to cherry-pick which parts of adulthood young people will be “allowed” to participate in, while simultaneously infantilizing them and undermining their autonomy. If a college student is considered enough of an adult to pay taxes, start a family, vote, and even die for their country; then they are enough of an adult to exercise their constitutional rights.
Caitlin O’Shei is a rising senior at Trinity University in San Antonio, TX.