Common Arguments Against Campus Carry

Guns on campus would lead to an escalation in violent crime.
Guns on campus would lead to an increased number of suicides by college students.
Guns on campus would distract from the learning environment.
Colleges are too crowded to safely allow the carry of concealed weapons.
A person with a gun could “snap” and go on a killing spree.
A dangerous person might jump someone who is carrying a gun, take the gun, and use it to do harm.
Dorms are notoriously vulnerable to theft. It would be too easy for someone to steal an unattended firearm from a dorm.
It’s possible a gun might go off by accident.
It’s unlikely that allowing concealed carry on college campuses could help prevent a Virginia Tech-style massacre becase most college students are too young to obtain a concealed handgun license.
Colleges are emontionally volatile environments. Allowing guns on campus will turn classroom debates into crime scenes.
The college lifestyle is defined by alcohol and drug abuse. Why would any sane person want to add guns to that mix?
In an active shooter scenario like the one that occurred at Virginia Tech, a student or faculty member with a gun would only make things worse.
The job of defending campuses against violent attacks should be left to the professionals.
Police officers typically spend four to five months in training; whereas, concealed handgun license holders usually spend one day or less.
How are first responders supposed to tell the difference between armed civillians and armed assailants.
A Taser is as effective as a handgun against an armed assailant.
Defense Spray is as effective as a handgun against an armed assailant.
Self-defense training is as effective as a handgun against an armed assailant.
Some states allow citizens to be issued concealed handgun licenses at the age of eighteen.
It is inconceivable that any logical person would believe the answer to violence is more guns.
The answer to bullets flying is not more bullets flying.
The answer to school violence is prevention, not guns on campus.
School shootings are very rare, and college campuses are statistically very safe. There is no need to allow concealed carry on campus.
Some professors might be afraid to issue bad grades if they know that students could be carrying guns.
The last thing we need is a bunch of vigilantes getting into a shootout with a madman, particularly since it’s been proven that trained police officers have an accuracy rate of only 15%-20% in the field.

Related Documents

Why Our Campuses are NOT safer without Concealed Handguns
Empty Holsters on Campus: P.C. leaves innocents defenseless (Washington Times op-ed)
SCCC Campus Handout
Facts about Concealed Carry (excerpt from www.gunfacts.info)
NRA-ILA “Right to Carry 2008″ Fact Sheet

Responses to Common Arguments

Return to ArgumentsGuns on campus would lead to an escalation in violent crime.

Since the fall semester of 2006, Utah state law has allowed licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns on the campuses of Utah’s nine degree-offering public colleges (20 campuses) and one public technical college (10 campuses). Concealed carry has been allowed on the two campuses of Colorado State University (Fort Collins, CO, and Pueblo, CO) since 2003 and at 14 Colorado community colleges (38 campuses) since the fall semester of 2010. After SCC won a lawsuit against the University of Colorado system, the remaining public colleges (21 campuses) in Colorado—including those in the CU system—changed their policies (as of the fall semester of 2012) to allow campus carry.

As of July 1, 2011, state law requires all Mississippi public colleges (42 campuses) to allow campus carry by holders of a Mississippi license with an enhanced training endorsement. As of July 1, 2014, state law requires all Idaho public colleges (30 campuses) to allow campus carry by holders of an ‘enhanced’ Idaho license.

Counting Blue Ridge Community College (Weyers Cave, VA), which allowed campus carry from 1995 to 2012, that’s more than 150 U.S. college campuses allowing concealed carry for a combined total of almost 1,500 semesters (spring/fall) over the past twenty years. Not one of these campuses has seen a single resulting act of violence (including threats) or a single resulting suicide attempt.

Likewise, no state has seen a resulting increase in gun violence as a result of legalizing concealed carry (all 50 states now allow some form of concealed carry), despite the fact that licensed citizens regularly carry concealed handguns in places like office buildings, movie theaters, grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, churches, and banks. Virtually every peer-reviewed study on the subject, including studies by the National Academy of Sciences* and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center**, has concluded that there is no evidence that licensed concealed carry leads to an increase in either violent crime or gun deaths.

According to 2002-2006 statistics*** from the Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas concealed handgun license holders were five and a half times less likely than members of Texas’s general population to commit manslaughter and four times less likely to commit murder.

*Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review,” National Research Council/National Academy of Sciences, 2005

**Evaluation of State-level Firearms Policies,” Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2006

*** https://www.txdps.state.tx.us/rsd/chl/reports/convrates.htm

Return to ArgumentsGuns on campus would lead to an increased number of suicides by college students.

Studies* show that 90% of suicides are committed in the home. Because most college students over the age of twenty-one (the minimum age to obtain a concealed handgun license in most states) live off campus, allowing concealed carry on college campuses would have very little impact on the ability of college students to possess firearms in their homes and, therefore, little to no impact on the overall number of suicides by college students. Furthermore, we would caution anyone to be careful when evaluating studies that purport to show ‘prove’ that firearms increase the risk of suicide. Something can only be ‘proven’ if a randomized-controlled trial is completed; such a trial would be impossible to complete in this case.

*“Youth and Adolescent Suicide: A Guide for Educators,” Oregon Resiliency Project, University of Oregon, 2003; After Suicide: A Ray of Hope for Those Left Behind, Eleanora Betsy Ross, 2001

NOTE: At the University of Texas—a major university with over 50,000 students—a quick comparison of campus housing statistics and concealed handgun licensing statistics reveals that there would likely be no more than ten to twenty concealed handgun license holders living in on-campus housing

Return to ArgumentsGuns on campus would distract from the learning environment.

Ask anyone in a ‘right to carry’ state when he or she last noticed another person carrying a concealed handgun. The word ‘concealed’ is there for a reason. Concealed handguns would no more distract college students from learning than they currently distract moviegoers from enjoying movies or office workers from doing their jobs.

In most states with ‘shall-issue’ concealed carry laws, the rate of concealed handgun licensure is between 1% and 3%. Therefore, statistically speaking, a packed 300-seat movie theater contains between three and nine individuals licensed to carry concealed handguns, and a shopping mall crowded with 1,000 shoppers contains between 10 and 30 individuals licensed to carry concealed handguns. Students who aren’t too afraid to attend movies or go shopping and who aren’t distracted from learning by the knowledge that a classmate might be illegally carrying a firearm shouldn’t be distracted from learning by the knowledge that a classmate might be legally carrying a firearm. To emphasize the point once more, these same students carry responsibly and without distracting others when they go to the movies and malls on the weekends. What changes when they step onto a college campus?

Return to ArgumentsColleges are too crowded to safely allow the carry of concealed weapons.

Colleges are no more crowded than movie theaters, office buildings, shopping malls, and numerous other locations where concealed handgun license holders are already allowed to carry concealed handguns. The widespread passage of shall-issue concealed carry laws has not led to spates of shootings or gun thefts at those locations.

Return to ArgumentsA person with a gun could “snap” and go on a killing spree.

Contrary to popular myth, most psychiatric professionals agree that the notion of a previously sane, well-adjusted person simply ‘snapping’ and becoming violent is not supported by case evidence. A Secret Service study* into school shootings concluded that school shooters do not simply snap and that a person’s downward spiral toward violence is typically accompanied by numerous warning signs.

*“Safe School Initiative: An Interim Report on the Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools,” U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education with support from the National Institute of Justice, Co-Directors Bryan Vossekuil, Marissa Reddy PhD, Robert Fein PhD, October 2000

Return to ArgumentsA dangerous person might jump someone who is carrying a gun, take the gun, and use it to do harm.

Even assuming that this hypothetical dangerous person knew that an individual was carrying a concealed handgun, which is unlikely, there are much easier ways for a criminal to acquire a firearm than by assaulting an armed individual.

Return to ArgumentsDorms are notoriously vulnerable to theft. It would be too easy for someone to steal an unattended firearm from a dorm.

The vulnerability of dorms to theft does not necessitate a campus-wide ban on concealed carry by licensed individuals. There are numerous other options, from community gun lockups to small, private gun safes that can be secured to walls, floors, bed frames, etc.

NOTE: On most college campuses very few students of legal age to obtain a concealed handgun license still live in dorms. Even at the University of Texas—a major university with over 50,000 students—a quick comparison of campus housing statistics and concealed handgun licensing statistics reveals that there would likely be no more than ten to twenty concealed handgun license holders living in on-campus housing.

Return to ArgumentsIt’s possible a gun might go off by accident.

Among the more than 150 college campuses that currently allow concealed carry, there have been three accidental/negligent discharges—two by faculty/staff and one by a student. Two of the negligent discharges were the result of the license holder carrying the gun in a pants pocket without a holster (both of these incidents resulted in non-life-threatening injuries to the license holder’s leg), and one was the result of the license holder showing a new gun—a gun with which she was not yet familiar—to her coworkers (this incident resulted in only minor abrasions that did not require medical attention). All three of these incidents could have been avoided through proper training and/or the implementation of appropriate policies (e.g., allowing colleges to require that licensed students, faculty, and staff keep handguns holstered or cased at all times) that do not restrict the ability of license holders to carry concealed handguns for personal protection.

A quick glance at CDC data from 2007 (the last year for which records are available) reveals that individuals between the ages of 21 and 24, the age group most likely to carry concealed handguns on a college campus, accounted for fewer than 70 fatal gun accidents that year, nationwide. And based on consistent trends, it’s fair to assume that most (approximately 80%) of those were either hunting accidents or incidents of someone mishandling a firearm in the home. It’s highly doubtful that even one of those incidents was related to licensed concealed carry.

From 1996-2007, the State of Texas had 1,754 convictions for ‘discharge of a firearm.’ Only three of those convictions were of license holders, and it’s not certain if any of those three convictions were related to concealed carry.

Because the trigger of a properly holstered firearm is not exposed, because modern firearms are designed not to discharge if dropped, and because an applicant for a CHL must (in most states) pass a training course covering firearm safety, accidental discharges among concealed handgun license holder are extremely rare and represent, at worst, a statistically negligible risk. SCC feels that it is wrong to deny citizens a right simply because that right is accompanied by a minor risk.

NOTE: Only about 2% of all firearm-related deaths in the U.S. are accidental, and most of those are hunting accidents and accidents involving firearms being openly handled in an unsafe manner. According to CDC statistics, a person is five times more likely to accidentally drown, five times more likely to accidentally die in a fire, 29 times more likely to die in an accidental fall, and 32 times more likely to die from accidental poisoning than to die from an accidental gunshot wound.

Return to ArgumentsIt’s unlikely that allowing concealed carry on college campuses could help prevent a Virginia Tech-style massacre because most college students are too young to obtain a concealed handgun license.

Many people are surprised to learn that 19 of the 32 victims of the Virginia Tech massacre were over the age of 21 (the minimum age to obtain a concealed handgun license in Virginia and most other states).  Though it’s impossible to know how the presence of an armed concealed handgun license holder might have impacted a particular shooting, it’s conceivable that, had one of those 19 older victims had the means to stop the shooter, one or more of the 13 younger victims might have been saved.

It’s important to remember that concealed carry is about personal protection, not public protection.  The fact that some students might not enjoy all of the benefits of concealed carry on campus doesn’t mean that all students should be denied the means to protect themselves on campus.

Return to ArgumentsColleges are emotionally volatile environments. Allowing guns on campus will turn classroom debates into crime scenes.

Before shall-issue concealed carry laws were passed throughout the United States, opponents claimed that such laws would turn disputes over parking spaces and traffic accidents into shootouts.  This did not prove to be the case.  In fact, many of the law enforcement officials have since admitted that they were wrong to oppose concealed carry measures. Detroit Police Chief James Craig has even said that more CPL holders in the Motor City could further decrease violent crime in the city. The same responsible adults—age 21 and above—now asking to be allowed to carry their concealed handguns on college campuses are already allowed to do so virtually everywhere else.  They clearly do not let their emotions get the better of them in other environments; therefore, no less should be expected of them on college campuses.

Licensed concealed carry has yet to turn a debate into shootout on any of the 150+ college campuses where it’s allowed or in any of the legislative chambers where it’s allowed (i.e. the Texas Capitol, the Virginia Capitol).

Return to ArgumentsThe college lifestyle is defined by alcohol and drug abuse. Why would any sane person want to add guns to that mix?

This is NOT a debate about keeping guns out of the hands of college students. Allowing concealed carry on college campuses would not change the rules about who can buy a gun or who can obtain a concealed handgun license. Every state that provides for legalized concealed carry has statutes prohibiting license holders from carrying while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Legalizing concealed carry on college campuses would neither make it easier for college students to obtain firearms nor make it legal for a person to carry a firearm while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Allowing concealed carry on college campuses would have no impact on the laws regulating concealed carry at bars and off-campus parties, the places where students (particularly students of legal age to obtain a concealed handgun license) are most likely to consume alcohol.

Return to ArgumentsIn an active shooter scenario like the one that occurred at Virginia Tech, a student or faculty member with a gun would only make things worse.

What is worse than allowing an execution-style massacre to continue uncontested?  How could any action with the potential to stop or slow a deranged killer intent on slaughtering victim after victim be considered ‘worse’ than allowing the killer to continue undeterred?  Contrary to what the movies might have us believe, most real-world shootouts last only three to ten seconds (according to law enforcement instructors).  Even the real gunfight at the O.K. Corral, a shootout involving nine armed participants and a number of bystanders, lasted only about 30 seconds and resulted in only three fatalities (no bystanders were injured).  It is unlikely that an exchange of gunfire between an armed assailant and an armed citizen would last more than a couple of seconds before one or both parties were disabled.  Even if it lasted the full ten seconds, how could ten seconds of two people shooting at each other possibly be worse than ten minutes of an assailant walking up to victims and shooting them in the head (sometimes multiple times) at pointblank range, as occurred at Virginia Tech?

Return to ArgumentsThe job of defending campuses against violent attacks should be left to the professionals.

Nobody is suggesting that concealed handgun license holders be charged with the duty of protecting campuses. What is being suggested is that adults with concealed handgun licenses be allowed to protect themselves on college campuses, the same way they’re currently allowed to protect themselves in most other unsecured locations. According to a U.S. Secret Service study* into thirty-seven school shootings, ‘Over half of the attacks were resolved/ended before law enforcement responded to the scene. In these cases the attacker was stopped by faculty or fellow students, decided to stop shooting on his own, or killed himself.’ The study found that only three of the thirty-seven school shootings researched involved shots being fired by law enforcement officers.

*“Safe School Initiative: An Interim Report on the Prevention of Targeted Violence in Schools,” U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education with support from the National Institute of Justice, Co-Directors Bryan Vossekuil, Marissa Reddy PhD, Robert Fein PhD, October 2000

Return to ArgumentsPolice officers typically spend four to five months in training; whereas, concealed handgun license holders usually spend one day or less.

Police officers do not spend five to seven months learning to carry concealed handguns for self-defense; they spend five to seven months learning to be police officers.  Concealed handgun license holders are not police officers; therefore, they have no need of most of the training received by police officers.  Concealed handgun license holders don’t need to know how to drive police cars at high speeds or how to kick down doors or how to conduct traffic stops or how to make arrests or how to use handcuffs.  And concealed handgun license holders definitely don’t need to spend weeks memorizing radio codes and traffic laws.

“Contrary to what some opponents of concealed carry might claim, concealed handgun license holders don’t need extensive tactical training, because they are not charged with protecting the public—it’s not their job to act like amateur, one-man SWAT teams.  All a concealed handgun license holder needs to know is how to use his or her concealed handgun to stop an immediate threat of death or serious bodily harm, and that type of training CAN be accomplished in a few hours.”

NOTE:  In Texas, for example, the shooting test that must be passed to obtain a concealed handgun license meets all but one of the minimum proficiency requirements for qualifying law enforcement officers (the one exception being that officers are also required to complete a timed reload). 

Return to ArgumentsHow are first responders supposed to tell the difference between armed civilians and armed assailants?

This hasn’t been an issue with concealed handgun license holders in other walks of life for several reasons. First and foremost, real-world shootouts are typically localized and over very quickly. It’s not realistic to expect police to encounter an ongoing shootout between assailants and armed civilians. Second, police are trained to expect both armed bad guys AND armed good guys—from off-duty/undercover police officers to armed civilians—in tactical scenarios. Third, concealed handgun license holders are trained to use their firearms for self-defense. They are not trained to run through buildings looking for bad guys. Therefore, the biggest distinction between the armed assailants and the armed civilians is that the armed civilians would be hiding with the crowd, and the armed assailants would be shooting at the crowd. Finally, if all the above fail, I think we would all agree – we’d rather take our chances with the “good guys with guns” than succumb to the “bad guys with guns.”

Return to Arguments - A Taser is as effective as a handgun against an armed assailant.

If you’re going to attempt to use a Taser to defend yourself against an armed assailant, you’d better hope the assailant isn’t wearing thick clothing or standing more than fifteen feet away. You’d also better hope that you don’t miss with your first shot and that you aren’t facing more than one assailant. And you’d better hope that you can escape to safety before the Taser’s effects wear off. Like handguns, Tasers are banned on most college campuses.

Return to ArgumentsDefense Spray is as effective as a handgun against an armed assailant.

If you’re going to attempt to use a defense spray to defend yourself against an armed assailant, you’d better hope you bought one of the concentrated formulas that doesn’t take ten to fifteen seconds to begin working. You’d also better hope that the assailant is standing in close proximity to you and that you are in a well-ventilated location where you won’t find yourself overcome by the effects of the spray before you can escape to safety. Like handguns, defense sprays are banned on most college campuses.

NOTE: Most campus police forces tacitly approve of the use of defense sprays, or mace, despite their prohibition in almost every student handbook. We’ve often wondered why campus police departments agree that students need some method of self-defense beyond what the administration allows, but have decided to arbitrarily allow certain methods of self-defense.

Return to ArgumentsSelf-defense training is as effective as a handgun against an armed assailant.

If you’re going to try to manually disarm an assailant, you’d better be within an arm’s length of the assailant, be standing on firm ground, have no obstacles between you and the assailant, and be in relatively good physical condition. If the assailant is standing four feet away, you’re probably out of luck. If you’re sitting in a chair or lying on the floor, you’re probably out of luck. If there is a desk between you and the assailant, you’re probably out of luck. And if you’re elderly or disabled, you’re probably out of luck. Even a well-trained martial arts expert is no match for a bullet fired from eight feet away. Why should honest, law abiding citizens be asked to undergo years of training in order to master an inferior method of self-defense?

Return to ArgumentsSome states allow citizens to be issued concealed handgun licenses at the age of eighteen.

Among the forty-four shall-issue’ states*—states where local authorities cannot require qualified applicants to “show a need” before the applicant is issued a concealed handgun license/concealed carry weapons permit—six states allow, without special provision, for any qualified person eighteen years or older to be issued a concealed handgun license. These states are Indiana, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

“Based on the FBI/Department of Justice violent crime statistics for the year 2006, the crime rates for these seven states, when ranked with all fifty states and the District of Columbia, rank as follows:

Indiana – 30
Montana – 42
South Dakota – 47
New Hampshire – 48
North Dakota – 50
Maine – 51

“Not only are Maine, North Dakota, New Hampshire, and South Dakota four of the five** U.S. states with the lowest crime rates, Montana has the tenth lowest crime rate, and Indiana isn’t even in the top 50%. Clearly, these states’ lenient concealed handgun laws are not breeding generations of young violent offenders. “The extraordinarily low crime rates in these six states, coupled with the fact that these states have a combined population of only about 10,900,000 (approximately 1.6 million less than the combined population of America’s two largest cities—New York, NY, and Los Angeles, CA—and at approximately 1/3 the combined violent crime rate of those two cities) has led Students for Concealed Carry to focus on the majority of ‘shall-issue’ states where the minimum age to receive a concealed handgun license is twenty-one.”

*All states are currently shall-issue either in code or in practice with the exception of California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

**Vermont is ranked at 49—the third least violent state. Vermont neither requires nor offers a license to carry a concealed handgun.

Return to ArgumentsIt is inconceivable that any logical person would believe the answer to violence is more guns.

One might have just as easily told Edward Jenner, the man who discovered in the late eighteenth century that the cowpox virus could be used to inoculate people against smallpox, “It is inconceivable that any logical person would believe that the answer to disease is more viruses.”

Return to ArgumentsThe answer to bullets flying is not more bullets flying.

Actually, the answer to bullets flying is almost always more bullets flying. That’s why the police bring so many guns with them when they respond to a report of ‘shots fired.’

Return to ArgumentsThe answer to school violence is prevention, not guns on campus.

Prevention and preparedness are not mutually exclusive. In a perfect system, the two approaches to safety compliment each other. Preventive measures, such as teaching students and faculty to watch for the warning signs of mental illness and providing counseling to disturbed students, can work hand in hand with preparative measures, such as developing campus alert systems, providing additional training to campus police, and allowing the same trained, licensed adults who legally carry concealed handguns when not on college campuses to do so on college campuses.

Return to ArgumentsSchool shootings are very rare, and college campuses are statistically very safe. There is no need to allow concealed carry on campus.

Though most college campuses—like most affluent neighborhoods—are statistically safer than the surrounding communities as a whole, most college campuses—like most affluent neighborhoods—do occasionally play host to every type of violent crime found in the rest of society, from murder to assault to rape.  There are no laws prohibiting licensed concealed carry in affluent neighborhoods, and there shouldn’t be laws prohibiting licensed concealed carry on college campuses.

It makes no sense to limit licensed concealed carry to areas where danger is likely or imminent, because reasonable people tend to avoid places where danger is likely or imminent.  Concealed handgun license holders carry guns in case danger finds them where they had no reason to expect it.

Furthermore, a free society always places the burden of proof on those seeking the denial of a right, to show that granting the right will cause harm.  A free society never places the burden of proof on those seeking the granting of a right, to show that the right is needed.  The statistics suggest that allowing concealed carry on campus won’t hurt and might help; therefore, there is no legitimate reason not to allow it.

Return to ArgumentsSome professors might be afraid to issue bad grades if they know that students could be carrying guns.

Why should professors be more afraid of issuing bad grades to students who want to carry guns LEGALLY than of issuing bad grades to students who might already be carrying guns ILLEGALLY?  College campuses are open environments—they don’t have controlled points of entry, metal detectors, or X-ray machines.

In light of the fact that a person unconcerned with following the rules can walk onto a college campus carrying a backpack full of guns just as easily as carrying a backpack full of books, some professors might feel more comfortable about issuing bad grades if they knew they were allowed the means to defend themselves.

Regardless of how any particular student or professor feels about the issue, laws must be based on facts, not feelings.  Feeling safe or unsafe is not the same as being safe or unsafe

Return to ArgumentsThe last thing we need is a bunch of vigilantes getting into a shootout with a madman, particularly since it’s been proven that trained police officers have an accuracy rate of only 15%-20% in the field.

Citizens with concealed handgun licenses are not vigilantes. They carry their concealed handguns as a means of getting themselves out of harm’s way, not as an excuse to go chasing after bad guys. Whereas police shooting statistics involve scenarios such as pursuits down dark alleys and armed standoffs with assailants barricaded inside buildings, most civilian shootings happen at pointblank range. In the Luby’s Cafeteria massacre, the Columbine High School massacre, and the Virginia Tech massacre, the assailants moved slowly and methodically, shooting their victims from very close range. A person doesn’t have to be a deadeye shot to defend himself or herself against an assailant standing only a few feet away.