Universities unable to regulate guns on campus

More crimes about guns

A post here a couple of years ago noted the challenges US universities were facing in trying to address guns on campus. More recently there was news in a survey on US students’ views on carrying concealed weapons which highlighted what seemed to be quite a large proportion of students who did not object to concealed carry.

Now Inside Higher Ed reports that a Florida appeals court has rejected the right of public universities to regulate guns on campus.

Someone who posted a pic on Facebook to offer a nuanced view on this topic

The court has determined that universities, except in limited circumstances, lack the legal right to regulate gun possession on campus:

The ruling came in a case involving a rule at the University of North Florida banning students from keeping guns in their cars. But the appeals court went beyond that rule (which it rejected) to speak more generally to the right of public colleges and universities to limit gun possession on campus, as local news media indicated they do. Under Florida’s Constitution, the appeals court found, only the Legislature can make such restrictions, so most rules imposed by public colleges and universities would be invalid.

Sadly they're talking about real ones

sadly they’re talking about real ones

The university had argued that a specific exemption in Florida law giving school districts the right to regulate guns in their facilities applied to public universities as well. The appeals court rejected that argument, saying that lawmakers specify different types of educational institutions in their regulations, so that references to school districts cannot be assumed to go beyond elementary and secondary education.

As noted in the report this leaves universities “powerless” to deal with guns on campus and the decision “defies common sense.” This puts it mildly. In order to maintain a safe and secure environment for students, staff and the public, surely they have to have the power to govern the presence of weapons on campus.

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Guns on (US) Campuses

Should we be pleased? Students Oppose Concealed-Carry Gun Policy on Campuses

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a report on a new survey which suggests most students are against the idea of people being allowed to carry concealed guns on campus.

As state legislatures continue to debate whether to allow people to carry concealed firearms on college campuses, a survey shows that most students oppose the idea.

The survey, conducted by Ball State University, found that 78 percent of students at 15 Midwestern colleges were against the carrying of handguns on campuses and would not obtain a permit to do so if it were allowed.

welcome on campus?

welcome on campus?

A similar majority, nearly four in five students, said they would not feel safe if students, faculty members, and visitors were allowed to carry guns.

Bringing student voices into the debate over guns on campuses was part of what drove Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of community health education at Ball State, to conduct the survey. “Most of our laws on campus in regards to guns do not really consider student perspectives,” he said. Now “the students have spoken.”

Most of the 1,649 undergraduates surveyed thought that allowing concealed weapons would increase the rate of suicide and homicide on campuses. Those who supported concealed carry, Mr. Khubchandani said, were far more likely to be male, to own a gun, to have been the victim of a crime, and to binge-drink.

Sixteen percent of respondents reported owning at least one gun, while half admitted that they didn’t know whether their university had a policy concerning firearms on the campus.

I’ve been reflecting on this for a few days now and I’m still finding it really quite difficult to process. I accept, reluctantly, that there are entirely different traditions in the USA and Europe about gun ownership and control which mean that the terms of the debate are different. However, we are talking about university campuses here. Places dedicated to education, knowledge creation, research and dissemination. Institutions where disputes are resolved through rational argument and debate rather than violence. And yet in this US survey, the students have spoken and barely 80% of students think carrying handguns is a bad idea. Only 80%! And 16% already have a gun themselves. I just find it very difficult to understand why the scale of objection is not larger given that we are talking about higher education. What is it that enables some students to reconcile a university environment with the ownership of a firearm?

More Guns on Campuses

The freedom to bear arms – in class

Piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that legislators in nine US states, including Florida, Texas, Michigan, and Arizona, are considering laws that would restrict institutions’ campus anti-gun policies:

Proposals to bar campuses from banning weapons have been common since the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, which gun-rights advocates say may have been stemmed or even prevented if students and faculty members had the ability to defend themselves. All but one of those proposals—in Utah—have failed. But legal victories for gun-rights advocates have raised questions about the rights colleges have in restricting firearms on campus.

A proposal this year in Kansas, for example, would require campuses to either maintain a certain level of security, with measures such as metal detectors and armed guards, or to allow guns on their grounds. But legislation in most states would simply bar campuses from banning guns altogether. In most cases, anyone with a valid gun license could carry weapons on campus.

Just crazy.