The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday September 26th

Viewpoints: Liberalize gun laws on college campuses

THE ISSUE: Recently, the University of Texas was forced by the Texas legislature to allow concealed carry of firearms on campus. Here, two of The Daily Tar Heel’s Editorial Board members debate the efficacy of allowing concealed carry on college campuses.

See the other viewpoint here.

Just as public universities are obliged to respect the First Amendment rights of students and faculty, they should respect Second Amendment rights as well.

Concealed carry — possessing a concealed firearm on one’s person — is already legal in North Carolina for citizens over 21 years of age who have a clean criminal record and a license, obtaining which requires the completion of safety and training courses. More than 570,000 people in North Carolina have concealed carry licenses. Statistically, almost every time a North Carolinian is in public, they likely see or interact with someone with a concealed firearm without ever knowing it.

Concealed carry deters would-be criminals from assailing their victims and allows responsible gun owners to effectively protect themselves. Unfortunately, there is an exception to N.C. concealed carry law that forbids carrying on college campuses.

The General Assembly should extend the right to effective self-defense to college campuses. North Carolina has already slightly relaxed its restrictions on gun rights on campus, allowing lawful gun owners to store their firearms in the locked trunk of their cars. The self-described conservatives in the state legislature should be true to their convictions and strengthen the ability of North Carolinians to exercise their constitutional rights.

Despite the apocalyptic warnings of anti-Second Amendment activists, none of the states that have legalized campus concealed carry have experienced any party gunfights, unintentional discharges in the middle of lectures or other serious issues stemming from lawful concealed carry. 

Opponents of concealed carry on campus imagine colleges would turn into chaotic warzones, but concealed carry is not a free-for-all. It is unlikely more than a small percentage of the campus community would even opt to carry concealed. It is illegal for anyone to carry firearms under the influence of intoxicants, and publicly mishandling or brandishing one’s weapon in anger is a serious felony. Many of the same arguments and fears wielded against concealed carry on college campuses, such as every petty dispute devolving into a shootout, were raised against legalizing concealed carry at all, only for these fears never to come to fruition. Indeed, the nationwide trend of liberalizing concealed carry laws over the last two decades has coincided with a precipitous decline in violent crime in the United States.

While opponents often cite that college campuses are generally safe and that thus concealed carry is unnecessary, this ignores the fact that many in the campus community must commute to and from campus and are effectively disarmed and unable to effectively protect themselves because they must leave their firearms at home. Discussion of gun rights on campuses often revolves around horrific, high-profile and (thankfully) rare mass shootings; and while concealed carry may allow the campus community to better protect itself in such an awful scenario, concealed carry would be more effective in allowing students to protect themselves against much more common crimes like assault or mugging.

Ultimately, there is no magical force field that prevents guns from being brought onto campus by ill-intentioned people. Campus police cannot be everywhere at all times, and responsible gun owners should be able to effectively protect themselves at universities — like they can anywhere else.

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