August 28, 2014

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Concealed carry a safe choice for colleges

grendelkahn/Flickr

In Massachusetts, state law prohibits the carrying of firearms on the grounds of any college without special permission. Like most of the gun laws in Massachusetts, this law exists because people allowed their emotions and feelings dictate what to impose on the masses. Let us take a step back and look at what this law and concurrent University policy actually does, and whether or not it makes sense to unilaterally ban the carry of firearms by all persons other than police officers on campus property.

In Massachusetts, residents over the age of 21 may apply for a license to carry. Many are granted this license without restriction, which allows them to carry a gun concealed in the vast majority of the state. One of the few places you can’t carry without being in violation of the law is “on the grounds of any elementary or secondary school, college or university,” according to state law. This of course precludes these people who are licensed to and often do carry these guns almost everywhere in the state from carrying onto the 20,000-plus person city of the University of Massachusetts if they don’t want to end up in prison, or at the very least expelled and no longer with a gun license. What this doesn’t mean is that there is any physical barrier preventing those who don’t wish to follow the law or those with malicious intent from carrying a gun onto campus.

Advocates of this law as well as school policy say that UMass is a very safe place with an excellent police force, and they would be correct. UMPD does a very good job and trains very well, and UMass is an exceptionally safe place, as are the surrounding towns. However, being a generally safe place with a good police department isn’t a valid reason to prevent all adults who lawfully carry a gun on a daily basis from continuing to serve as their own protector once they enter some magical bubble. Likewise, a police officer will be the first one to say they can’t be everywhere at once.

There are many irrational fears and ideas about what it would mean to have a concealed carry-friendly campus. The first of these is that if students and professors were allowed to carry guns on campus, this would somehow open up a huge influx of guns onto school grounds. Due to the 21-year-old age restriction, lack of residency and the already low rates of firearms licenses in Massachusetts, only a handful of students would ultimately actually carry at UMass. There is another irrational fear about accidents. Those who are serious enough to carry a gun on a daily basis are among the most responsible in the gun community. The majority of the students driving cars amongst thousands of pedestrians and texting are an exponentially greater threat to public safety than holstered guns on campus could ever be. Remember when you are out in town you are likely always amongst a few people carrying guns, and they don’t just “go off.”

The most absurd argument frequently made is that in the terribly unlikely event a student had to fire a gun in a crowded area there could be crossfire. This is the point where one must ask oneself a simple question: Is a chance of crossfire for a chance of stopping something awful really worse than a guarantee of nothing being able to stop the unthinkable? Unfortunately, these terrible events only take seconds or minutes, and it is not realistic to assume the police department will necessarily be able to interrupt any given event within seconds. The more likely event one must remember is that people may be assaulted on an individual basis on their way to or from school, or on any area of the school grounds, and adults should be allowed to protect themselves.

It would not be impossible to implement a policy allowing for concealed carry on the campus. While a change in the law and school policy would ultimately be ideal, Massachusetts law does provide for “the written authorization of the board or officer in charge” to make individual exceptions. This is technically the same policy which must be followed for items such as pepper spray. It would not be unreasonable for a system to be put in place to allow students and professors to be further vetted by an authority such as the UMPD, and then have their ability to carry a firearm extended to campus property.

Personal defense doesn’t need to be political or emotional. A common sense approach must be made when it comes to allowing people to protect themselves. Would a small handful of students and professors who carry guns on a regular basis having that ability extended to campus really make UMass a more hostile environment, despite no barrier existing that prevents armed criminals from being on campus? I don’t believe it does, and I don’t believe that conclusion would be made by many who look at the situation objectively. Gun owner or not, it is important to not let common sense go by the wayside in this increasingly emotionally charged political world.

Michael Ball is the co-founder of the UMass Gun Club. He can be reached at mjball@student.umass.edu.

Comments
37 Responses to “Concealed carry a safe choice for colleges”
  1. Jamie says:

    Yeah, you’re right, there’s nothing preventing armed criminals from being on campus, because the gun laws don’t mean anything to criminals – they’ll just break them. There’s no point in having gun laws. And, by the same logic, there’s no point in having any OTHER laws either, because criminals will just break them. I guess laws just don’t work.

  2. Jamie says:

    (sarcasm alert, for those who have trouble detecting it in writing)

  3. David Hunt '90 says:

    Opposition to campus CCW is nothing more than distrust of the common man. In EVERY state where CCW is implemented, crime goes down. In EVERY state where CCW is proposed, “The Elites” sagely predict bloodbaths and accidental shootings – which don’t happen.

    Ultimately, opponents of CCW laws believe that a dead woman, raped and strangled with her own pantyhose, is morally superior to a woman who double-taps her attacker in the center of mass. Opponents of CCW laws are more concerned with the well-being of criminals than potential victims.

    Talk about a war on women!

  4. Kris says:

    Jaime, the author is not advocating for no gun laws, which is clear in his piece. Either you didn’t read the article, which is likely, or you are taking a knee-jerk position against a sensible argument, which is equally as likely.

  5. hm says:

    jaime, i really don’t see how that is supposed to apply here.

  6. Mike says:

    Laws only are followed by the law abiding, and for the most part only curtail an action by allowing for a punishment. If someone doesn’t care about the punishment, then they won’t abide by that law. Also people do things such as weigh the chance of getting caught, or a cost benefit analysis. IE a drug dealer will carry a gun onto campus for protection (it happens), or a murderer will carry one to kill. However, the majority of the people who lawfully carry guns for self defense will not sneak one onto campus because jail and disarmament isn’t what they see as a viable price for protecting themselves in one of the only places in the state they are forbidden to do so.

    Jaime, you must remember laws only prevent actions through the threat of punishment, and the ultimate punishment of those likely to re-offend. This concept falls on its face in a “gun free zone.”

    Mike

  7. Dylan P. says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with allowing people to carry if they are eligible. Massachusetts has some of the most strict gun laws in the country. Licenses aren’t just handed out. If the state grants someone a license to carry, then the person has proved that he/she is mature enough to handle a weapon safely. This is a great article! Well done!

  8. Kim says:

    “There’s no point in having gun laws.”
    Actually, this is pretty much true. I realize the author was trying for sarcasm, but just what do gun laws actually accomplish? Two things: 1) They unduly burden the law-abiding, and; 2) They give the average prosecutor yet another charge to throw at a miscreant in order to force a plea bargain.

  9. Ian says:

    Are you serious? Drunk students with guns in their rooms ? Ya that will end well.

  10. AntiCitizenOne says:

    Jamie, there’s a difference between malum in se (bad in of itself) laws against robbery, murder, rape, theft, vs malum prohibitum (bad by virtue of statute, but may not always appear to violate moral standards) laws against drug/weapon possession, gambling, prostitution, etc.

    Most of the malum in se laws are just and can stay. There are quite a few of malum prohibitum laws that are un-necessary and unjust, such as the laws banning concealed carry on campus. A presence of a weapon in an area does not indicate harm being done, otherwise with that logic you’d want your campus cops being unarmed and having NO armed backup.

    To take another POV on rights:
    “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.” – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes – rights end when they directly harm others. If the antigunners had it their way, they’d cut off our arms and lobotomize us to prevent any instances of violence, but where would that get us?

    To put a gunner’s twist on Justice Holmes’ words, your right to bear arms ends when you pull the trigger on the wrong person.

    FYI – Justice Holmes delivered the majority opinion in Brown v. United States, 256 U.S. 335 (1921), affirming the right of self-defense almost a century before Stand Your Ground was even established.

    “Detached reflection cannot be demanded in the presence of an uplifted knife.”

  11. Lena says:

    Great article. We have the right to carry firearms and no matter how good the police force is, they are usually there after the crime has occurred/started. Hopefully common sense sense (not to mention the Constitution)will prevail.

  12. Brandon says:

    From the Department of Homeland Security guide to responding to an active shooter.

    “Good practices for coping with an
    active shooter situation
    • Be aware of your environment and any
    possible dangers
    • Take note of the two nearest exits in any
    facility you visit
    • If you are in an office, stay there and
    secure the door
    • If you are in a hallway, get into a room
    and secure the door
    • As a last resort, attempt to take the active
    shooter down. When the shooter is at
    close range and you cannot flee, your
    chance of survival is much greater if you
    try to incapacitate him/her.”

    So essentially, if there were an active shooter incident at UMass, having a trained, armed, and competent individual likely would make an enormous different for the chance of survival of everyone there.

    In other words, seconds count, and the police are minutes away.

  13. Drew says:

    Being both a teacher and a student over the age of 21 and legally licensed in the state of MA to carry a firearm I contacted the chief of UMass police (Patrick Archbald) requesting permission to do the same on UMass property. My intentions were to make it legal for me to carry concealed while on UMass property. He denied my request.

    By creating a “gun free” zone all you are doing is creating a free fire zone for screwed up people. Most of the gun shootings you hear about in the news by crazy people happen in GUN FREE ZONES. The movie theater shooting? Gun free zone. Georgia tech shooting? Gun free zone. Columbine High School? Gun free zone.
    See a pattern? You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist to see that these messed up people target gun free zones. They believe these gun free zones are where they have the best chance of committing as much violence (seen as retribution) as possible, whether true or not.

    What I want to see as both a teacher and a student of UMass is armed citizens that can defend themselves at a moments notice if such a situation arises; citizens trained in the fundamentals of marksmanship. I want to see either the chief of police or the chancellor approve written requests for permission to carry concealed on UMass property by those citizens that have already undergone a federal background check and a state background check and are deemed ok by the state and the federal government to own and carry firearms concealed (a la: a MA license to carry (LTC)). By doing so you maintain the safety of the Campus and empower the law abiding citizen instead of the other way around.

    Thanks for writing the article Mike. Keep up the good work with the UMass Gun Club!

    PS: I also wish UMass would take an official stance on allowing written permission to carry defensive sprays (OC, pepper, mace) for both women and men while on campus.

  14. Mike says:

    Ian, did you read the article?

    Mike

  15. hm says:

    ian. who lives on campus that is over 21? serious question.

  16. Dr. Ed Cutting says:

    Guns are explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, Abortion isn’t.

    If MA can prohibit you from having a gun on campus — and require you to go through a lengthy and expensive process to acquire one, why can’t they do the same thing with abortion?

    Sorry ladies, you have to get a license before you can have an abortion, and if you live in a UM dorm — you don’t have the right to have one at all.

    Hey, if you can ignore one of the Bill of Rights, you can ignore them all..

  17. Dr. Ed Cutting says:

    In Switzerland, all young men are required to be in the Army Reserve, and to go to occasional drills. Each is issued his own personal SG-550 rifle — essentially similar to the M-16 — WHICH HE TAKES HOME WITH HIM AND KEEPS IN HIS HOUSE.

    The train stations are usually quite noisy on Sunday evenings as the guys are heading home, no where near sober, and each with his rifle. None of which are fired. And that is the difference between being brought up with a respect for firearms and being brought up in nanny-state Taxachusetts….

  18. Ryan says:

    In MA a gun license is either issued by the State Police or your town’s Chief of Police. With that in mind, I would be OK with people carrying guns (concealed) on campus if they were first reevaluated by the campus police, and proved that they are actually capable of carrying a gun concealed. Gun licenses for residents are valid for 6 years. That is a lot of time to lose good behaviors if you don’t handle a fire arm often.

    I strongly feel that no one should have the right to store a gun in a dorm room. Too many things are stolen from the dorms, and it would be very easy to steal someone’s gun safe (since it would be a handgun safe).

    I’ve fired handguns myself, and they honestly scare the crap out of me. It is all to easy to ends someone’s life. That said, I respect people’s rights to own and carry a gun, but there needs to be some control in densely populated area.

    I do have concerns about the some of the views of the author. He comes off as supporting vigilantly justice. According to MA law, self defense can be used if (1) reasonably beleieved that he was being, or about to be, attacked; (2) used reasonable or proportional force (no shooting someone who slaps your face), and (3) made reasonable efforts to avoid the use of force. Number 3 is the issue the author seems to skirt. Let’s hope there is never a shooting at UMass, but if there was, owning a gun does NOT give you the right to take down the shooter unless you cannot escape the line of fire. You must actually attempt to leave the area if possible.

  19. AntiCitizenOne says:

    FYI Ryan – Vigilantes are those who actively seek out people for perceived wrongs – CCW permit holders are taught much differently in their qualification classes. The permit is NOT a badge for you to go out and play cop or Captain America, but is a safeguard against those who question your intent to immediately defend yourself and your loved ones from imminent harm.

  20. Mike says:

    Ryan:
    In Massachusetts, the issuing authority is the police department of your city of residence. I don’t think the school chiefs should in fact have to sign off on you doing something you already do everywhere else in the state, but I offered it as a compromise to start moving in the right direction. Also, I did not bring up storage in a dorm room in this article as that was not the focus of this article. I do believe their should be a means for on campus residents to safely store firearms in their rooms, but that is another issue. As far as you having owned and shot handguns, I’m sorry you do not feel responsible enough to own one. Driving a car through a populated area also provides you with the power to cause catastrophic harm to others, that doesn’t mean I am afraid to drive a car. I believe in our judicial system and do not support vigilante justice.

    Obviously I am not advocating deputizing a bunch of students, nor does carrying a gun automatically do that to you. However, if you as a student or professor now have your RIGHT to defend yourself extended to campus, in you find yourself in the midst of a massacre, I think you will find that “retreating” is not as reasonable an option as you make it sound. If someone is shooting at you, and you have no where to go because you are in a crowded lecture hall, you may shoot back. By defending YOURSELF you would by default be defending others who face the same threat. I would also like to add saving someone else’s life is not vigilante justice. Killing someone who is no longer a threat is. While the “books” may be less than clear about using lethal force to defend someone else OUTSIDE your dwelling, like everything in life, common sense applies.

  21. Jarhead1982 says:

    Poor Ryan, you mimicked the anti gun extremists mantra to the tee, I support the 2A but I am frightened of what if. Sorry little anti, we dont believe you.

    The same what if you and your fewer and fewer remaining anti gun extremists have never proven that law abiding gun owners are the threat or risk you claim them to be.

    You cant even identify a bad person carrying concealed to begin with, so reality is you are frightened of the mythical boogeyman, a monster you cant describe in real words, much less prove to exist, yet you are afraid, how pathetic.

    Self defense is NOT BEING A VIGILANTE.

    The police have been ruled dozens of times not to be legally liable to protect the individual civilian.

    Police only manage to solve 8.06% of all the violent crimes committed each year.

    Since police only manage to respond at best in 4 minutes, 15-20 minutes on average, explain again how the shooter will stop and wait politely for the police to arrive before they begin killing?

    What is the SOP at UMASS for athe police encountering an active shooter?

    Is it contain and control like they did at VA Tech, surrounding and securing the permiter, waiting for SWAT to arrive and entering the building 40 minutes later after all the killing had occurred?

    Or is it enter immeadiately and engage the shooter as time after time when a psycho shooter is engaged, they give up or kill themselves.

    But no, people like Ryan believe stopping a killer before he runs out of bullets will cost more lives.

    Mental Health professionals call such identifying with being a victim, when your not, as the Stockholm Syndrome

    Also funny how our founding fathers never wrote, penned, or put into law that we had a duty to retreat. Nanny stater panty waists added that BS in the last 5 decades.

  22. Dr. Ed Cutting says:

    “Also funny how our founding fathers never wrote, penned, or put into law that we had a duty to retreat. Nanny stater panty waists added that BS in the last 5 decades.”

    And I am not aware of any instance where an armed woman has been raped. Maybe it has happened, but I doubt it.

  23. john says:

    Allowing angry rednecks with guns sounds like a great idea.

  24. mike says:

    Nice informed post John.

    Mike

  25. Sergey says:

    Guns are scary, loud and I don’t like them. Plus the kill people. They should all be banned just because I feel that way and have no solid facts to support my point!
    -Sergey

  26. mason says:

    I strongly support rednecks with gun on campus!!

  27. Emily Mawson says:

    Here check out this photo of a member of a gun support group.

    http://img.totaloutdoornetwork.com/UserFiles/15/159/15929/redneck%20with%20guns.jpg

  28. Mike says:

    Nice picture Emily. Do you have any argument you’d like to contribute (one side or the other) to the discussion?

    Mike

  29. emily says:

    No I think the picture reflects the consensus on campus of what we think of the gun carrying culture and the opinion that introduction of violent weapons to a liberal community is not worth discussing.

    Your op-ed piece isn’t going to change the fact that we reject such objects on campus and including false statistics such as only 8 percent of violent crimes are solved does not help your argument.

  30. Matt says:

    I teach here at UMass and have been a resident of the community for almost 25 years. I also hold a Class-A LTC. I have never been arrested or charged with any manner of crime (unless you count dozens of speeding tickets), I have passed the NICS background check, and my permit has never been suspended or revoked. I am not a redneck or ultra-conservative, and I support concealed carry on campus.

    The law says I can carry a handgun concealed just about anywhere, but specifically prohibits me from carrying on campus. This disturbs me because statistically I am more likely to be the victim of a violent crime on a college/university campus or at my place of work than anywhere else. Since they are one in the same for me, it is upsetting that the place I am most likely to need a gun is the one place I am not allowed to have one.

    Responsible gun owners understand that in Massachusetts you only ever use a handgun if you or someone near you is in danger of death or grave bodily harm and unable to retreat. The notion that bullets would start flying over someone cutting you in line for coffee is absurd.

    Plenty of other campuses in America allow concealed carry and there have been no incidents so far. In fact, licensed handgun owners are among those least responsible for handgun violence. According to the Violence Policy Center in Washington, DC, from 2007-2010 there were over 30,000 gun deaths in America. You know how many were from licensed handgun owners? 154. That’s less than half of one percent of all firearm deaths in America over a three-year span. No matter what statistics you use, registered, law-abiding handgun owners are not the people we need to worry about. Let us carry on campus.

    Edit: In response to another reader’s comments, I do agree that firearms should not be allowed in dorms, due to the high rate of dorm-room thefts and lack of secure storage areas.

  31. Mike says:

    Who threw that statistic out? But since you mention it, can it be disproved, it sounds about right without having looked at the numbers. Also I will add that even solving a violent crime doesn’t stop it from having happened. Also, your “liberal campus” is more open minded than you might like it to be. The Umass Gun Club has gained a LOT of interest recently, we taught the safety course to about 60 students last semester. We expect a bigger turn out this coming semester. We are also hoping to bring back official shooting sports to Umass. The club has become much more popular than we could have ever hoped.
    ———-
    The majority of Americans, both those who identify with the democratic party, and those who identify with the republican party, as well as those who are not party affiliated enjoy firearms, it is only in the big cities where they have such a negative stigma. I think you may find constructive discussion will yield more progress than posting objectionable pictures. I would be happy to have an intelligent debate with you on this message board. If what you say is true and that is how the majority of you and your peers view gun owners (which I don’t believe), all the more reason for this discussion to be brought fourth.
    —————
    In fact, would you and your friends who are so opposed to guns be interested in having a panel discussion with our gun owning side? I think that could be very interesting.
    —————
    Mike

  32. Mike says:

    Matt, VPC includes suicide in their statistics. They are notably anti-gun. Gun ownership in dorms is a separate issue… yes they would need to fix the the theft problem before that was even discussed.

    Mike

  33. mason says:

    I think the main argument is that as a civilized community we don’t support a reversion to human beings carrying weapons all the time. What exactly is the point? Why should we allow people to carry guns on campus? They never make an argument why except to say deaths related to registered gun owners are low or that they’ll “save” us in the even of crime.

    One of the purposes of a society is to prevent us from living in a state of nature; a state of nature where uncivilized human beings are in constant fear of being attacked and are always prepared to defend themselves. In the past they most likely carried clubs or sticks, today instead of one hand dragging it’s knuckles against the ground and the other carrying a club; the preferred choice is a gun.

    It’s great you mentioned statistics show it’s not allowing people to carry guns is statistically “safe” but it’s a side point that does not address the issue on hand. It’s a quality of life issue for people who don’t feel comfortable to see other students, professors or co-workers carrying weapons. And why should we jeopardize our quality of life for a very small minority?

    We live in a civilized society and in such a society it’s disturbing and backwards to allow people to carry weapons in our day to day lives.

  34. mike says:

    You wouldn’t see it… concealed carry is concealed carry. MANY Massachusetts residents concealed carry. I, my fiance, my roomate, and my friends all carry guns. Its an extra level of protection that is not inconvienient so we do it. Why should we and the rest of the state be prohibited from doing it on campus? Do you not feel safe anywhere else in the state where it is allowed? Why would you feel less safe on the campus if it were allowed? Also, while we do live in a civilized society, not everyone is civil, which is why crime exists and we have cops. The responsible thing for me to do in turn is to be able to protect my own, because threats do exist. Your feelings are less important than my ability to protect myself. You live in an armed society where criminals kill thousands every year. I don’t exactly know why you feel safer having a law preventing armed non-criminals. A lot of good that did in virginia tech, or columbine. But at least they felt safe the other 364 days a year, right?

  35. Mike says:

    Yeah, half of Americans sure are rednecks… Anyone who takes their protection into their own hands is a redneck. I love this, all you guys can do is hurl insults. NOT ONE comprehensive argument. We’ll beat out another ban on guns that “look scary” and make people “feel” nervous, because they don’t in effect do anything.

    Signed, your local neighborhood redneck biology major who grew up in a liberal family outside Boston and has never voted for a republican presidential candidate and owns plenty of guns.

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