I walk down Locust Walk, approaching College Hall for a 9 a.m. class. Books in hand, my backpack weighs me down from behind, bouncing up and down with each step. What’s missing is a handgun fit snugly and securely in a concealed-carry holster inside my waistband.
The story of an armed Penn student remains just fantasy for now because of University policy.
A student or faculty member can go through the entire licensing process required by Pennsylvania law, be issued a concealed-carry license after passing extensive criminal and mental health background checks and yet still be prohibited from carrying on Penn’s campus.
Sure, she can carry at 15th and Spruce, but not at 36th and Spruce. Why should an individual whom the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has determined is capable of responsibly carrying a concealed firearm be denied the right to do so when she steps onto her university’s campus?
I set out to pursue answers to this question from the source best suited to provide a response: the University.
My request was met with near silence. When confronted with questions of student rights and safety, the Division of Public Safety replied only with a verbatim restatement of a paragraph-long University weapons policy accessible on Penn’s website. When I then reached out to University Communications, Director of Media Relations Ronald Ozio referred me to the DPS statement as well.
Worse, neither University source would tell me where the gun-free zone begins and ends.
Thankfully, others were not as reticent to speak. Kurt Mueller, director of public relations for Students for Concealed Carry, explained in a phone interview that his organization advocates having “the same rules on college campuses that exist everywhere else.” Where a concealed-carry permit has been duly issued, its holder can carry a concealed firearm in virtually every location in a state.
Are we so deluded by the intoxicating fervor of gun-control demagoguery that we believe that there is a meaningful difference between on campus and off campus?
“Bad guys,” Mueller told me with conviction, “will be bad guys when they are on campus. And good people, when they are on campus, will be good guys … There’s no reason to believe that a change of scene will cause them to behave in a way that departs from the way they behave everywhere else.”
Interestingly enough, even anti-gun groups seem to have trouble identifying a meaningful distinction between on-campus and off-campus carry.
Ladd Everitt, director of communications of The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, was very clear that he believes concealed carry is dangerous everywhere. But when pressed to note why concealed carry on campus is especially dangerous, he was unable to come up with a reason supported by facts, instead resorting to histrionics.
Everitt posited that there will be “far more likely violence on a daily basis on campus when you start flooding it with guns” and students “kill[ing] themselves in moments of emotional crisis.” Yet at all public universities in Colorado and Utah, where concealed carry on campus is permitted, we haven’t seen an outbreak of violence perpetrated by trigger-happy undergrads.
Quite the opposite. At Colorado State University, after allowing for concealed carry in 2003, the rate of sexual assault fell off a cliff, plummeting 95 percent between 2002 and 2008.
Mueller tells me that he is unaware of any incidents of properly licensed students carrying firearms on campuses that allow guns engaging in gun-related criminal acts. Remember, these are students who have been licensed by the state, who have undergone background checks.
You need not be in favor of guns or concealed carry to support campus carry. This isn’t an argument for gun rights. It is an argument for consistency.
If a state allows for concealed carry, then there is no defensible reason for universities to enforce a zone of defenselessness, in which licensed, law-abiding students are prohibited from carrying firearms and the criminals who disregard the law — and who certainly won’t care about university policy — have a monopoly on the use of firearms.
Should students be made to be victims on Penn’s campus, prohibited from exercising the rights they have everywhere else in Pennsylvania? We should not let Penn strip us of the means to defend ourselves when we step onto campus.
Jeffrey Nadel is a College junior from Boca Raton, Fla. His email address is email@example.com. Follow him @theseends. “Give Me Liberty” appears every other Monday.