Anyone paying attention to gun politics in the last ten years knows that the tide is turning in our favor.
But as the borders of liberty expand, the gun ban crowd has dug in, waging the war to ban guns regionally rather than nationally. As a result, the argument about where those borders should begin and end has intensified; churches, airports, and colleges are all becoming contentious battle grounds.
Most gun owners can agree that there remain some places where guns shouldn’t be allowed. For example, not even law enforcement officers are allowed to carry their guns into prison cells, where hardened criminals might take control of the weapon. Airports and courthouses at least have enough X-rays, metal detectors, and security guards to believe the next guy is as disarmed as you are, and even the most militant gun enthusiast understands metal detectors at the White House.
What isn’t clear is the case for denying self-defense on college campuses. Rather than undertaking the understandably daunting challenge of securing hundreds of acres of campus, colleges (sometimes) meticulously post signs and stickers announcing the rule against guns.
On April 16, 2007, a mentally unstable student (who would have wanted his name printed here) walked past those signs and engaged in a nine-minute shooting spree on the quiet campus of Virginia Tech, firing 174 shots, killing 32 people, and wounded 15. Ironically, the massacre could have been far worse. The shooter missed 73 percent of his shots, and used less than half the ammunition in his possession before killing himself. Just months prior, campus officials celebrated the defeat of a bill which would have allowed legal guns on campus, announcing that students could now “feel safe.”
Clearly, feeling safe does not equal being safe.
More than twenty such mass shootings have occurred on so-called “gun free” colleges in the last decade. Somehow, criminals have shrewdly invented a mechanism for circumventing the impenetrable defenses of signs and stickers to perpetrate their crimes.
Desperate anti-gun lobbyists brand these shootings as “rare,” and in the broad scheme that’s true. Less rare, however, are the “quieter” crimes reported every day across American campuses. Each year, an average of 3000 sexual assaults, 4500 robberies, and 5000 assaults are reported. (Remember, many campus crimes—especially sexual assault—go unreported.)
Indeed, college campuses are one of the few places in America where crime is rising.
Put simply, gun-free zones are defense-free zones. They create free-fire, target-rich environments, appealing to any criminal gunning for the notoriety of a high body count. Colleges even advertise their defense-free policies, practically inviting armed psychopaths, and giving them a government guarantee that they won’t face armed resistance until police arrive.
When it comes down to it, not even colleges trust their own gun-free zones as evidenced by the number of lockdowns (mostly false alarms) and the summoning of armed law enforcement at the first report of an armed gunman.
The day after the Virginia Tech massacre, a group of students banded together and formed Students for Concealed Carry, dedicated to restoring the right of lawful permit-holders to carry on campus and giving students a fighting chance against would-be criminals.
The group has been a case study in social media activism. Coordinating almost entirely on Facebook, this all-volunteer batch of students and graduates quickly snowballed their numbers to more than 40,000 supporters, comprised of parents and professors, students and staff, republicans and democrats.
Students for Concealed Carry immediately began organizing a yearly event termed the Empty Holster Protest where participants wear empty holsters to class to symbolize their defenselessness against criminals. The event receives national and even international media coverage each year, but in 2012 the protest took on a new meaning when a disturbed student engaged in an armed execution of classmates at a small nursing college in Oakland, California on the very first day of the protest, providing a tragic, emotional illustration of exactly why gun-free zones don’t work.
Students also began contacting their state representatives, asking them to help restore the right to defend themselves on campus. Few would think allowing lawful firearms on campus property would become a popular idea so soon after such high-profile campus violence, yet in the years since Virginia Tech, more than 30 states have considered campus carry legislation in some form.
The wheels of social progress turn slowly, and initial successes were confined to “car carry” in places like Georgia and South Carolina–overturning college policies which forbade commuters from locking guns in their cars for protection on trips to and from campus.
In fact, in 2010 only a handful of campuses in two states allowed concealed carry.
However, thanks to the tireless efforts of Students for Concealed Carry and their supporters, campus carry is now allowed at more than 200 campuses across six states.
Encouraged by legal, legislative, and lobbying efforts by SCC members in numerous communities, recent victories now include:
Colorado, where in a David-against-Goliath victory, the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Students for Concealed Carry’s lawsuit against the University of Colorado, upholding campus carry and striking down campus gun bans statewide.
Kentucky, where the state Supreme Court overruled the University of Kentucky, which violated the law in firing an employee for having a legal firearm locked in his car which was parked a mile away from his workplace, the operating room of the university hospital.
Mississippi, where in 2012 the legislature allowed that permit holders with additional training could receive a special endorsement on their permits and carry in otherwise-forbidden locations.
Oregon, where a court of appeals rejected the idea that colleges can usurp legislative authority to regulate firearms on campus. The ruling came after a U.S. Marine was arrested for having a tiny derringer in his pocket on campus. (Colleges are currently circumventing the ruling by demanding all patrons sign a contract not to carry on campus as a condition of enrollment or employment.)
Virginia, where Attorney General Ken Cuchinelli issued an opinion rejecting blanket gun bans on college campuses. Liberty University subsequently became one of the first campuses in the state to allow licensed concealed carry voluntarily.
Wisconsin, where the brand-new passage of shall-issue laws included provisions for removing campus gun bans and allowing defensive carry outside of classrooms.
The response of colleges to this effort has illuminated the ignorant and sometimes sinister opposition, particularly to the Empty Holster Protest. In their eagerness to overrule one constitutional right, colleges frequently demonstrate an eagerness to trample others, such as in Texas where one college refused students the right even to protest, until the ACLU partnered with the student, sued the college, and won. Another college in Pennsylvania attempted to prevent a student from handing out literature on the subject. Professors in Michigan even threatened a walkout.
Colin Goddard, a survivor of the Virginia Tech shooting, wields his victim status as a badge of authority to lobby for concealed carry restrictions and endorses the very policies that emboldened his assailant. (Ironically, Goddard admits a flaw in mental health laws, not gun laws, allowed the shooter to obtain his weapons.)
While mainstream news outlets are quick to prop up Goddard and other professional victims as advocates and experts, they ignore the voices of people like Holly Adams (whose daughter was slain at Virginia Tech and who backs campus carry to protect against future attacks), and Amanda Collins (a student in Nevada who obeyed gun laws and was left defenseless against a serial rapist on campus).
As demonstrated by Students for Concealed Carry, it doesn’t take expert credentials, powerhouse donors, or establishment support to accomplish social progress. All it takes is dedication, persistence, and having the truth on your side.
The victories of recent years are a testament to the diligent and brave efforts of impoverished students. These kids are the next generation of freedom’s supporters, and they deserve our praise and our support.
David Burnett is a nursing student at the University of Kentucky. He has worked with Students for Concealed Carry for five years, and currently serves as the Director of Public Relations.
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