Booze, Drugs, Students: What Could Go Wrong at the ‘Gun Dorm?’

Not a single person signed up to live in the University of Colorado dorm that allows students to carry guns. But what about other campuses?

Should kids who've just reached a legal drinking age be allowed to have guns in their dorm rooms? (Photo: Getty Images)
Suzi Parker is a regular contributor to TakePart. Her work also appears in The Christian Science Monitor and Reuters.

When Nicholas Stehle attended college in Arkansas, he said it was no secret that guns were in every campus dorm.

“Some dads just said, ‘I don’t care what the law says, my little girl is going to have a way to protect herself,’ ” said Stehle, who serves on the board of directors for Arkansas Carry, an all-volunteer, Arkansas-based gun rights organization. “Others had guns for more nefarious reasons. The point is that bans only work for those who respect the law and its purpose. A criminal who would use a gun in an armed robbery or a rape has no fear of a misdemeanor weapons charge.”

In August, the University of Colorado announced a change in its housing contracts on its Colorado Springs and Boulder campuses. The change stated that students with a Colorado concealed-carry permit could no longer keep a handgun in the dorms. Instead, the university created dorms specifically designed for students aged 21 and older who had concealed-carry gun permits.

So far, no one has applied to live in the dorms. Not surprising, says Stehle.

More: Half-Cocked, Fully Loaded: South Dakota to Require Guns for All?

“In the case of the Colorado University, it’s obvious that they're segregating students and trying to make those who want to keep guns in their dorms out to be fools, or worse, dangerous people,” Stehle says. “Imagine the outrage if they tried to segregate gay students into their own dorms.”

The university made the decision after the Colorado Supreme Court overturned a Colorado University campus gun ban. The Court ruled that such a prohibition was illegal because it was not approved by the Legislature.

After the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech University that killed 32 people, many state legislatures and universities began studying whether or not to permit guns on college campuses. Some gun proponents argued that in the wake of such violence, firearms should be allowed on campuses. Anti-gun lobbyists disagreed, insisting stricter rules needed enacting.

In 2011, 18 states introduced legislation to allow concealed carry weapons on campus in some manner, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Wisconsin and Mississippi passed laws that allowed carrying a gun on a college campus. The Wisconsin law states that college officials can ban guns from campus buildings but only if signs are posted at every entrance explicitly stating that weapons are prohibited. In Mississippi, those who carry a weapon must take a course on handling their weapon.

Currently, 21 states, including Arkansas, ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus. However, 23 states allow individual colleges and universities to decide their weapon rules. Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin have provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses because of court rulings.

Students for Concealed Carry, a student-run, national, non-partisan organization with more than 40,000 members, has been pushing for states to allow legal concealed carry on campuses for self-defense.

On the group’s website, it states, “College campuses, though typically safe, do play host to every type of violent crime found in the rest of society, from assault to rape to murder. Recent high-profile shootings and armed abductions on college campuses clearly demonstrate that ‘gun free zones’ serve to disarm only those law-abiding citizens who might otherwise be able to protect themselves.”

Erik Johnson, a master of arts student at Fordham University who is also a history teacher in Bridgeport, Conn., has keenly studied the Second Amendment. He says that both sides of the gun issue present sensible arguments.

Insert firearms into the equation and under periods of extreme stress or confusion, the consequences could be regrettable.

“Proponents of the court's decision are motivated by the popular right to self-defense, particularly on today's college campuses,” Johnson says. “This decision could, however, raise greater dangers than they could actually prevent. It is doubtful that one who intends on staging a school shooting would be deterred.  Unfortunately, such an extraordinary act is often a final desperate cry for attention which could be attributed to a variety of motivating factors, and the presence of other armed students should make little difference.”

But while Johnson is a gun-rights advocate, he says he worries about college-age students with weapons in moments of tension.

“As a secondary teacher, I often see the results of students who act without allowing for all of the possible consequences,” he says. “This doesn't always result in a tragic event, it may just be a step in the learning process. Unfortunately, insert firearms into the equation and under periods of extreme stress or confusion, the consequences could be regrettable.”

Do you think students should be able to carry weapons on college campuses? Share your thoughts in comments?

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