Forum Center, 4/24/12

Weapons on College Campuses?

Nestled on a plateau between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains, the town of Blacksburg is in the heart of southwest Virginia’s New River Valley. Blacksburg has a population of about 40,000 and is dominated by the presence of theVirginia Polytechnic Institute (better known to the rest of us as Virginia Tech). The school has grown to become Virginia’s largest university. At this college campus, known for its southern charm, no one expected that simply showing up for class on a spring day could turn dangerous and deadly.

That all changed on April 16, 2007.  Virginia Tech was the scene of the tragic shooting that claimed the lives of 28 students and 5 faculty members, with 29 others injured.   The horrific event officially marked the deadliest single-perpetrator shooting in United States history.  As twenty-three year old Cho Seung-Hui made his way across campus, indiscriminately killing whomever he encountered, none of his victims had a weapon to challenge him.  He basically fired his weapon until he was out of ammunition, with the exception of the bullet he used to take his own life. Weapons were barred on campus. The unanswered question from the tragedy is whether a gun-packing student or faculty member could have saved lives on that April day.

In Ohio, state law prohibits firearms in specified locations, including police stations, jails, day cares, airport terminals and airplanes, hospitals for the mentally ill, school safety zones, courthouses, places of religious worship, colleges and universities. There are advocates, such as the National Gun Victim’s Action Council, who argue for changing the law to allow anyone certified under Ohio’s “conceal and carry” law to carry a firearm on campus.

The debate centers around whether allowing students the right to carry concealed weapons on campus makes students safer or puts them more in harm’s way. Last month a former student at Oikos University, a small Christian university in San Francisco, went on a shooting rampage. According to reports, the shooter, One L. Goh, went through the entire building systematically and randomly shot victims. The attacker killed seven people and wounded three others. Goh was the only one there with a weapon.

Here in Ohio, the Ohio State University is host to a student group called Buckeyes for Concealed Carry that makes exactly these points in support of its push to allow guns on campus.  And in response to the tragic shooting at Oikos University, Buckeyes for Concealed Carry members wore empty gun holsters to class in order to protest what they feel is a constitutional right that has been stripped away.

In most states, the legal age to apply for a concealed carry permit is 21. If the law allowed concealed carry on campuses, most students wouldn’t qualify. Would allowing those students who are old enough to be certified as well as members of the staff and faculty to carry a firearm make college campuses safer?

Forum Question of the Week:
Should the law be changed to allow weapons to be carried on college campuses? 

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