Editorial: Concealed Carry of firearms has no place on Missouri college campuses

Putting firearms into the hands of college students and professors on campus will do nothing but cause more crime.

Missouri House Bill 575, sponsored by Rep. Dean Dohrman (R-51), has passed through the House and is now progressing through the Senate. Originally proposed as a measure to reign in university healthcare and housing requirements that were deemed unnecessary for students, it has become a vessel for Republican legislators to make Missouri college campuses the newest battleground for the expansion of second amendment rights.

HB 575 now includes an amendment to allow the concealed carry of firearms on college campuses. According to the bill, “no institution of higher education shall impose any contractual requirement... upon any employee, faculty member, or student that generally prohibits … the lawful possession or carry of firearms by such persons.”

Another aspect of the bill allows institutions of higher education to designate faculty members as campus protection officers — allowing them to carry firearms on campus and in classrooms.

Current UM System guidelines and Missouri law prohibit firearms on college campuses, unless in the possession of law enforcement or security personnel in the line of duty. These guidelines were upheld in September 2018 by a Circuit Court decision after an MU law professor was barred by the university from keeping his firearm in his car on campus.

Concealed carry on college campuses has been praised by Republican legislators in the Missouri House as being not only an expression of an individual’s second amendment rights but also a solution to both the rise of active school shootings in the U.S. and the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses.

According to Rep. Dohrman (R-51), arming university employees and allowing students to concealed carry would “keep the public safe.” Rep. Jered Taylor (R-139), who introduced the amendment to allow concealed carry on campus, raised concerns about individuals’ second amendment rights: “You don’t lose your constitutional rights just because you step onto a college campus,” and further asserted that “it’s important for individuals on campuses to be able to protect themselves.”

However, significant research indicates that allowing concealed carried firearms on college campuses has minimal impact on reducing active shootings or sexual assaults, and in fact increases crime rates.

Many proponents of HB 575 have cited studies suggesting that “gun-free zones,” such as Missouri college campuses, attract active shooters. However, there is insignificant data asserting that removing campus’ “gun-free zone” status would make them safer from the threat of an active shooter. Active shooters do not seek out “gun-free zones” when planning attacks — research has shown that the majority lash out against family members or past intimate partners.

If a shooter were to come to campus, armed college students would lack the training and skills necessary to effectively handle the situation. Missouri is a Shall-Issue state when it comes to concealed carry permits meaning it has some of the loosest gun control laws in the U.S. To be eligible for a concealed carry permit, one must be over the age of nineteen, have no criminal record and be a Missouri resident. Although permit holders are required to pass a firearms training course, it merely details the basics of marksmanship, safe use, cleaning and storage of a firearm and does not provide extensive training on accuracy, especially when in a high stress situation.

Even Campus Protection Officers are ill-equipped to properly counter an active shooting situation. To be designated as a Campus Protection Officer, faculty members must prove they possess a valid concealed carry permit and submit a certificate of completion from an approved School Protection Officer Training program.

MU Extension’s Law Enforcement Training Institute offers School Protection Officer certification by completing a three-week course on emergency response and firearms training. Although this course meets the state mandated minimum of 120 training hours, certificate recipients are by no means held to the same standard as armed law enforcement provided personnel. Even with more rigorous training, law enforcement personnel are well-documented to have made mistakes in high stress situations like an active shooting incident.

In fact, unarmed civilians are more than 20 times more likely to successfully stop an active shooter than armed civilians, according to FBI data from a study of active shooting incidents over a thirteen year period.

Guns on campus are not worth the risk, even if one believes they can protect against sexual assault.

The notion of being able to defend oneself from a sexual assault with a firearm glazes over hard data on campus sexual assaults, which implicates the majority of perpetrators of sexual assault as an acquaintance of the victim.

Eight in ten sexual assaults are perpetrated by someone the victim knows, according to the National Institute of Justice. A scenario in which proponents of HB 575 believe a gun would aid in self-defense, such as an assault while walking outside on campus, is much less common than an assault committed by an acquaintance of the victim.

Additionally, students are most at risk of sexual assault when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Research by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism indicates that half of sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption on behalf of the victim or the perpetrator. Although alcohol consumption on behalf of the victim in no way makes it their fault, Missouri law declares anyone under the influence of drugs or alcohol legally unable to carry a firearm. Therefore, when students are most at risk of becoming a victim of sexual assault, they would not be in legal possession of a firearm.

In the words of Rep. Deb Lavender (D-90) on the house floor in opposition to HB 575, “If you want to stop sexual assaults, teach boys to stop assaulting women.”

The reality of campus sexual assault is something much more complicated than which can be solved by putting a firearm into the possession of every person at risk of being assaulted. It is better combated by measures which don’t place the responsibility of preventing assaults into the hands of potential victims, such as more comprehensive bystander intervention training and consent courses.

Instead of preventing crimes such as assaults and mass shootings, putting firearms into the hands of college students may cause more crime than it prevents.

The college-aged demographic commits a disproportionate amount of gun homicides compared to other age groups. FBI data indicates that although people between the ages of 18 to 20 comprise only 4.2% of the national population, they account for over 17% of gun-related homicides.

Putting more firearms into the hands of this population, especially when coupled with alarming rates of underage and binge drinking prevalent on Missouri college campuses, is a recipe for disaster. With 66% of college students in Missouri having reported having consumed alcohol under the age of 21, and 23% meeting the criteria for binge drinking, this is too great a risk.

If our legislators in Jefferson City are so concerned with the rise of mass shootings in the U.S. and sexual assaults on campus, they should refer to relevant research on these issues and concern themselves with more comprehensive solutions instead of putting firearms into the hands of college students and professors.

Edited by Zainie Qureshi | zqureshi@themaneater.com

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