While mass shooting do not make up the whole picture of gun violence, the fear that these shootings have triggered in the general public throughout the last few years is undeniable. Cases like the Las Vegas shooting, which left 59 dead and 500+ more injured, the Orlando Shooting where 49 were killed and more than 50 were injured, and so many other tragic incidents have consequently created a panic among many U.S. citizens. This effect has been palpable within University of Redlands campus, specifically, for the university’s student body.
College students carrying weapons on campus became a heated political topic nationally and continues to be debated today. In 2015, 11 states proposed a bill involving guns on campus with only Texas successfully passing their bill. Currently, there are no federal laws regarding concealed carry permits.
Many argue that the methods college campuses use to protect their students is reactionary rather than proactive. Inevitably, colleges and universities cannot fully protect their students without promoting a closed off, isolated campus. Because of this debate, carrying a firearm for self-defense purposes has become an increasingly popular classroom discussion and concern among the student body.
The following U of R student decided to take proactive measures as a response to increasing crime rates locally and nationally. The Redlands Bulldog communicated with the anonymous student on her safety and privacy concerns via email. The student lives off campus and feels that the more people who know she owns a firearm, the less safe she may become. Although the Redlands Bulldog typically frowns upon anonymity, this particular situation made its usage appropriate.
“I decided to get a gun for safety. I live alone in Redlands, and there are break-ins often,” said the anonymous student. “I have known how to use a gun since I was a kid, and that’s the best way I can protect myself as a woman living alone. I have never used my gun on someone. If I had to use it, it would be for self-defense only and only in the most extreme situation.”
Laws vary throughout the states on how you are allowed to carry a firearm. In most states, it is illegal to carry a weapon or firearm unless you obtain a concealed carry permit. This allows one individual to carry a registered weapon, with certain limitations, in their possession under the circumstances that is hidden or concealed to the body and under the control of the person who carries it. Maine, Arizona, Kansas, Wyoming, Alaska, Vermont, and Missouri do not require a concealed carry permit to carry a firearm.
Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Kansas, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Mississippi, and Texas allow people with concealed carry permits on college campuses. Kansas recently passed a law that forces public universities to allow guns on campus.
The nonprofit organization Everytown for Gun Safety noted that “three Kansas universities estimated that it will cost nearly $2 million to secure their athletic facilities” as a reaction to the most recent law.
Many questions are being raised about why students desire concealing and carrying privileges on college campuses. As sexual assault reports average around nine a day, it can be reasonably linked that students may carry a gun in hopes of protection.
“I don’t have a CCW [Carrying a Concealed Weapon] because the place I would bring the gun most often would be to campus, and firearms are not allowed on campus,” the anonymous student said. “When I graduate, I will most likely apply for a CCW. There are a bunch of benefits to owning a firearm. Safety is number one. I don’t feel unsafe having a gun in my home and without it, I definitely feel as though if there were an intrusion, I would have a harder time defending myself.”
There are many dangers of increasing students’ exposure to firearms that have not been discussed on a national scale. Suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among college students. According Gifford Law Center (GLC), an organization specializing in gun violence research, more than 50 percent of all suicides are committed with a firearm. The GLC research also shows that individuals who possess a firearm are 4.5 times more likely to be injured in assaults than those who do not own a firearm.
“For me, this issue is one that no longer can be ignored or talked behind closed doors,” said Sabrina James, a freshman Johnston student. “The statistics on both sides need to be heard by everyone and brought to the forefront of the conversation if we are to progress as a nation. This is a culminating issue that sheds light on the multiple lenses of mental illness, Second Amendment rights, sexual assault and violence, and discrimination.”
Classroom discussions on gun control will continue to become more controversial as a result of our current political climate. In order for this conversation to be productive, remembering every person’s right to free speech under the First Amendment and respecting every party’s values will be essential.
“As we are the next generation preparing to take over the politics of this country, we need to start having the hard conversations. That begins in and outside of the classroom,” James said.
photo courtesy of Redlands Bulldog photographer, Halie West