State legislators and students supporting legislation to allow concealed firearms on college campuses aimed to debunk the notion that “traditional” aged college students are too reckless to own and possess firearms during a recent public forum held in Washington, D.C.
During its first national meeting, “Supporting Self-Defense on Campus,” Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC) along with The Second Amendment Federation (SAF), hosted a six-part forum on Aug. 1 at the National Press Club in an attempt to gain support for legislation allowing concealed guns on college campuses nationwide. The group advocates that licensed individuals at least 21 years old with substantial training and background checks should be allowed to carry concealed firearms on campus.
Louisiana state Rep. Ernest Wooten (R) said groups like SCCC are “fighting a perception.”
“We need to be diligent, we need to pay attention, and we need to educate,” Wooten said during the legislative panel discussion. “We have to prove that we’re responsible.”
The former sheriff is behind the Louisiana’s HB 199, which would allow students, faculty and staff with valid state-issued credentials to carry concealed weapons onto public Louisiana college campuses.
Ken Stanton, a Virginia Tech graduate student pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering education, agreed in an earlier debate with Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Stanton, who is the leader of Virginia Tech’s SCCC chapter, said it is unfair that many people think all college students abuse drugs and binge drink, thus making them poor candidates to carry concealed firearms on campus.
Helmke countered Stanton’s argument saying college students are often likely to commit suicide and in engage in substance abuse-related behavior.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, in a 2006 national survey on drug use and health, reported that almost 70 percent of individuals aged 21-25 either engaged in social alcohol drinking, binge alcohol use or heavy alcohol use. It also reported that the rates for serious psychological distress in 2006 were highest for adults aged 18 to 25.
Likewise, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, according to the National Mental Health Association.
On April 16, 2007, a student gunman at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg gunned down 33 people and later turned the gun on himself, committing suicide. The massacre was followed by another shocking campus shooting last February at Northern Illinois University where a student killed five people and wounded 15, before committing suicide.
Jeremy Schwab, a SCCC member and a student at University of Texas-Dallas, said his life experiences and the recent campus shootings have informed his support of concealed carry on college campuses.
When Schwab was 16 years old, a robber pointed a gun at his head while Schwab was on his way to make a bank deposit. In college, Schwab would have a gun pointed to his head again near a coffee shop.
“These laws protect the weak against the aggressive,” said Oklahoma state Rep. Jason Murphey (R), who is behind Oklahoma’s HB 2513. If the bill goes through, it would allow students to carry firearms on campus if they are at least 21 and are licensed to carry a concealed weapon.
In February the bill was approved by the state’s House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, but stalled in March when another measure was proposed that would have lowered to 18 the legal age to become eligible for the concealed carry license. Many have said that measure is illogical because 18-year-olds cannot purchase handguns.
Conceal-carry advocates in Oklahoma hope to follow in the steps of Utah, the first and only state to allow concealed guns to be carried on campus.
Andrew Dysart, a George Mason University (GMU) student and leader of GMU’s SCCC chapter, said he has been fighting for concealed carry on the Fairfax, Va.-based campus for some time.
“I was met with full resistance and with full hostility from college administrators,” said the 25-year-old Marine Corps veteran.
As of May 1, SCCC had 30,000 members — 90 percent of which were college students.
Its social networking-based Facebook group, which currently has over 32,000 members, has acted as a catalyst for the fairly new group’s growth.
In April, the group held a national silent protest against gun-free zones by wearing empty holsters.
The six-part forum also featured a debate about gun-free school zones; a panel discussion focused on students, legislature, media bias about guns on campus; and attorney Alan Gura, who was involved in the Supreme Court’s recent ruling allowing handguns in the District of Columbia.
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