Campuses Under Fire
Public universities are finding themselves at odds with their own state legislatures as lawmakers in several states propose legislation that would compel colleges to ditch their longstanding bans on firearms on their campuses.
Among the states considering such legislation in recent years—largely unsuccessfully—are Arizona, Idaho, Louisiana, Nevada, and Texas. Since 2007, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence reports, 60 proposed state laws, in 30 states, pertaining to guns on campus were eventually defeated.
Not all of the proposed laws have failed. Last year Mississippi and Wisconsin enacted legislation permitting concealed weapons under certain conditions. In March, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that all employees and students of the University of Colorado could legally carry handguns on its campuses provided they had valid permits. And the Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled in April that while universities can, in fact, institute firearm bans on a campus, they cannot prohibit guns in cars parked there.
Lawmakers proposing these initiatives typically posit that the U.S. Constitution protects every citizen’s right to bear arms, regardless of whether or not that citizen happens to be on a college campus. College and university presidents argue that college campuses traditionally have been secure spaces, where faculty members, staff employees, and students can feel safe and protected from the external world. Those two fundamentally irreconcilable perspectives have pitted some universities against the very lawmakers whose votes finance campus budgets.
A university president said to me recently, “We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to guns on campus. I’m terrified that our legislature will force us to overturn that policy. The last thing we need here is another Virginia Tech tragedy.”