Days after a shooting at Delta State University, a conversation over gun rights and campus violence has been renewed.
On Monday, Ethan Schmidt, assistant history professor at Delta State University, was found shot dead in his campus office.
Campus and Cleveland police apprehended the suspect Monday night. Shannon Lamb, a staff member in the geography department at Delta State who ultimately committed suicide, is suspected of killing two people — Schmidt and Amy Prentiss, who was shot and killed about 300 miles from the university.
Daniel Moseley, an assistant professor of psychiatry at UNC, said there is no compelling evidence to prove a direct correlation between permissive gun laws and campus shootings.
“In the Virginia Tech shootings, which were the worst case of campus violence in U.S. history, the shooter was already registered for outpatient psychiatric commitment, but that did not prevent him from obtaining guns,” he said.
Moseley said gun violence is a complex, multi-factored public health phenomenon.
"The public perception of an association between mental illness and gun violence is stigmatizing,” he said. “Different mental illnesses are associated with different risk factors for violence. People diagnosed with schizophrenia are more likely to be victims of gun violence than perpetrators of it."
Moseley said he understands the complications of a campus with guns.
“A campus where students and professors carry guns is more like a police state than an institution of higher education,” he said.
Allison Anderman, staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said in an email that most states prohibit or significantly restrict gun possession on campus property, referencing her response to a 2013 Texas concealed weapons bill.
“Guns on campus are likely to lead to an increase in student injuries, suicide and homicides because college-aged students are at a greater risk of serious mental illness,” she said.
However, Paul Valone, president of Grass Roots North Carolina, an organization that advocates for gun rights, said the focus of the Delta State shooting should be moved to the personal relationship between perpetrator and victim.
“The bigger question should be about whether firearms have provided a positive or negative effect on society, not about whether a firearm is used in a homicide,” he said. “Empirical evidence suggests that concealed carry handguns led to dramatic drops of murder, rape and robbery because guns have been used for self-protection.”
He said he does not believe in the practicality of separate campus gun laws.
“It is ridiculous to think that criminals would be deterred from shooting a gun because of campus gun laws,” Valone said. “Also, it is fundamentally wrong to say the federal government ‘allows’ the sales and possessions of guns because the framers granted individual rights to bear arms in the Constitution.”
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