BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Universities across Indiana are cautiously eying a state lawmaker’s proposal that would prohibit them from banning guns on campus.
Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, says he submitted the bill on behalf of college students who want to protect themselves. A similar measure introduced last year failed to get a hearing.
This year’s proposal has been assigned to the rules committee, where problematic legislation often languishes without a hearing, but university leaders say they are still concerned about the idea.
“We certainly understand and respect that there is a constitutional right involved here and there are legal ways folks can own and carry guns in Indiana,” Indiana University spokesman Mark Land told The Herald-Times in Bloomington. “But we fundamentally think the university is in the best position to determine what is in the best interest of students, employees and guests on campus.”
IU Bloomington sophomore Crayle Vanest, who is president of IU’s chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, tells WSBT in South Bend that the issue is “personal for a lot of us.”
“If somebody’s going to meet you with deadly force, some people want to be prepared for that. I want to be prepared for that,” she said.
IU South Bend sophomore Bryce LaCosse agreed.
“I think it’s a good thing, because anybody should be able to carry a gun anywhere,” LaCosse said.
Land disputed the argument that guns would help deter crimes on campus, noting that many sexual assaults are carried out by an acquaintance of the victim.
“Law enforcement would tell you that a gun on campus is more likely to fall into the wrong hands than thwart a crime. I don’t think anyone here feels that people being armed is going to act as a deterrent in any way,” Land said.
He said universities have large numbers of young adults living in close proximity and aren’t good places to introduce firearms. In 2009, he noted, a Purdue University student was killed when friends pointed a firearm at another student as a joke and the gun discharged.
IU South Bend junior Dany Meyer sided with Land.
“There’s people who are mentally incapable of handling a gun in the proper way and that would be a really bad choice,” Meyer told WSBT.
Only eight states currently allow guns to be carried on campus. More than 20 have banned the practice.
Currently, all IU campuses ban guns except for law enforcement. Purdue, Ball State and other public universities, including Ivy Tech, have similar policies.
“We believe that we’re able to maintain security with the staff that we have,” said Ivy Tech North Central Region Chancellor Thomas Coley. “Our preference would be that we would not create an environment where someone would have anything that would cause harm to a student that we wouldn’t be aware of.”
Nearly two dozen states considered bills in 2012 to allow students, faculty or both to carry firearms on campuses, according to collegestats.org.
Banks’ bill would exempt private colleges and universities.