Campus Life: Locked, Loaded and Loopy
Students protested the campus carry bill at the University of Georgia in April. Credit John Roark/Athens Banner-Herald, via Associated Press
Two more states — Arkansas and Georgia — have passed “campus carry” laws permitting licensed gun owners to pack concealed firearms at public universities, on the bizarre premise that students will be more secure from the nation’s epidemic of gun violence if there are more guns.
The issue is being fought in statehouses as the gun lobby presses to arm far more citizens in far more places regardless of the risks. Gun safety groups are pushing back, blocking liberalized gun measures in Montana and Florida this year even as the number of states legalizing guns on campuses, among the safest places in the nation, rose to 10.
The Arkansas law enacted in March was particularly alarming because it initially allowed spectators to come armed to the 72,000-seat stadium where the University of Arkansas Razorbacks play football. In a matter of days, the Legislature backtracked as sports and safety groups and an aroused public imagined the mayhem that could occur if there were gunplay by fans or fanatics. They asked why spectators are forbidden to take umbrellas and diaper bags into the stadium yet could legally carry a loaded firearm on game day.
So a second law was passed to exempt the stadium from campus carry, with no apology from the Republican Legislature for its waywardness. The law would still open most publicly owned buildings to citizens with concealed handguns, including the Capitol, as well as bars and restaurants that don’t post signs against gun-toting customers.
In Georgia, which passed campus carry this month, opponents hoped that Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, would veto the bill as he did a year ago with a forceful rejection that cited Thomas Jefferson and James Madison on the need to keep universities inviolable. But after a five-year push by the gun lobby, the governor signed it this time. He claimed the legislature, the General Assembly, had satisfactorily modified the law to ban guns in such “sensitive places” as faculty and administrative offices and preschool children’s centers — as if they are more threatened than college classes.
Police and university officials, who had strongly opposed the law as dangerous, now are burdened with making it work in the face of all manner of unanswered questions. Dormitories and fraternity and sorority houses will still ban guns, but how will firearms be safely stored at night? And how will classroom life and student demonstrations be affected by the proximity of concealed guns?
The vast majority of the nation’s colleges and universities ban firearms. But the gun lobby’s campaign is relentless in leaning on gullible politicians who parrot fantasies about campus dangers. This, despite federal research showing that college grounds have lower homicide rates than most of America. Arming campuses is a political path of low cunning that despoils the very idea of a university.
New York Times / The Editorial Board / May 15, 2017