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Monday, October 3, 2011

Guns on Campus

In District of Columbia v. Heller, the United States Supreme Court found that the District of Columbia handgun ban violated an individual’s Second Amendment right to own a firearm at home for self-defense. In McDonald v. City of Chicago, the Court found that this right applied to the states by way of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although the decision keeps states and localities from banning handguns outright, it does not spell out what kinds of gun controls would pass constitutional muster. Accordingly, the fight over handgun regulation goes on, as Inside Higher Ed points out:

Universities and anti-gun lobbyists have had many reasons to celebrate this year, with the death or delay of bills in more than a dozen states that would have allowed the concealed carry of weapons on campuses. But it seems the momentum may be shifting.

On Wednesday, the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned a longstanding rule of the state university system that prohibited guns on its campuses, making it legal for concealed carry permit-holders to carry anywhere on public college grounds. Only Utah's state law is as relaxed.

And early this summer, legislators passed laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi that allow anybody with a concealed weapons permit to carry a gun on public campuses. Both statutes were attached to seemingly unrelated bills that did not directly reference colleges, and the legality of the Mississippi measure is being disputed because it conflicts with current law, which prohibits carrying in any public or private school building.

Advocates of concealed carry argue that it is essential to keeping students safe. While campus police officers may protect a college to the extent that they can, license-holders would be able to respond to incidents such as the massacre at Virginia Tech University when officers don't get there in time, they say. Shootings may take place in mere minutes or even seconds, and it often takes police longer than that to arrive on the scene. Proponents also say people have a Second-Amendment right to carry on campuses as they do in most other public places. (Most campus officials dispute just about all of these claims, but many politicians do not.)