(Photo: Students for Concealed Carry on Campus)
College students across America have been strapping on empty gun holsters this week to protest laws and policies prohibiting licensed concealed carry on college campuses.
The week-long protests are sponsored by Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, or SCCC, a grass-roots organization of more than 44,000 college students, faculty members and citizens who support the right to self-defense on campus. The group has members in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The group formed shortly after the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007, in which a gunman brutally murdered 32 students and faculty members and injured 17 more before killing himself.
“Recent high-profile shootings and armed abductions on college campuses clearly demonstrate that ‘gun-free zones’ serve to disarm only those law-abiding citizens who might otherwise be able to protect themselves,” the SCCC website states.
SCCC lists 24 states that expressly prohibit concealed carry on college campuses by those with valid concealed handgun licenses and permits: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Wyoming. Texas specifically prohibits concealed firearms on campus but allows individual colleges to “opt out” of the law.
An additional 15 states “right-to-carry” states – Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia – let colleges decide whether to allow concealed carry on campus. Licensed individuals who are caught with firearms on campus may not be held criminally liable, but they may be expelled or fired by the colleges.
SCCC states, “Utah is the only state to allow concealed carry at all public colleges/universities, by prohibiting public colleges/universities from creating their own restrictions.”
According to the group, colleges have not only discriminated against concealed carry permit holders, they often censor students who disagree by ignoring or attempting to stop students from discussing the issue of concealed carry.
SCCC member Christine Brashier reported being banned from handing out fliers about the group by a Pennsylvania college that purportedly told her, “You may want to discuss this topic but the college does not, and you cannot make us.”
Students for Concealed Carry on Campus flier
During the spring 2009 semester, Texas’ Tarrant County College tried to stop students from wearing empty holsters on campus until a federal judge ruled that the ban violated the First Amendment.
“[T]he disruptive activities provision, as applied to student SCCC members to prevent them from wearing empty holsters on campus or in the classroom, violates such students’ First Amendment right to free speech. … Tarrant County College District, its officials, employees, and agents, be and they are hereby PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from prohibiting Clayton Smith, John Schwertz Jr., and any other Tarrant County College District student from wearing empty holsters in TCC’s classrooms, on the TCC campuses’ streets and sidewalks, and in the TCC campuses’ outdoor common areas, such as lawns and plazas.”
“Colleges aren’t content to ban the right of self-defense anymore,” said SCCC spokesman David Burnett. “Now they’re trying to suspend the right to freedom of speech. They want to silence us and hope we’ll go away. It’s outrageous and our membership cares too much about self-defense to remain silent.”
SCCC argues that there is no pragmatic basis for declaring college campuses off-limits to concealed carry by the same trained, licensed adults who lawfully carry concealed handguns in office buildings, movie theaters, grocery stores, shopping malls, restaurants, churches, banks and other locations. SCCC cites the following reasons for allowing licensed firearms on campus:
- Independent researchers and state agencies agree that concealed handgun license holders are five times less likely than non-license holders to commit violent crimes.
- No other type of location has seen an increased rate of violent crime since concealed carry became legal there.
- Eleven U.S. colleges/universities that currently allow concealed carry on campus (and have done so for a combined total of more than 80 semesters) have not seen any resulting incidents of gun violence, gun accidents or gun thefts.
- College campuses are open environments that lack screening measures such as metal detectors, X-ray machines and controlled points of entry.
SCCC lists two main functions of its organization: 1) to dispel common myths and misconceptions about concealed carry on college campuses and 2) to push state legislators and school administrators to grant concealed handgun license holders the same rights on college campuses that licensees enjoy in other unsecured locations.
“Compulsory defenselessness doesn’t make students safer; it makes them less safe,” Burnett said. “A piece of paper taped to the door saying guns are against the rules has yet to stop a criminal, whether a mass shooter or an armed rapist. It merely assures the criminal that victims are incapable of effective resistance.”
He noted that there are no security checkpoints or metal detectors on college campuses, and colleges have little control over what criminals bring on the college grounds.
“Until they can take responsibility for our safety and guarantee our protection, colleges can’t be allowed to deny us the right to self-defense.”