I understand some of my peers’ concerns regarding “guns on campus.” From my perspective, their opposition to concealed carry on campus is largely based on fear of further violence, a fear that has been largely misplaced but nonetheless capitalized on by gun control groups at the national level.
But I question this first-response intuition that has been propagated by the mass media. To begin, I want to point out that guns on campus already de facto exist: A person with Concealed Handgun License (CHL) is allowed to carry his or her guns on 21st Street, Dean Keaton, and for that matter, all other public streets, sidewalks and outdoor areas. We attend an open campus where anyone may walk in and out. In this regard, those with CHL are already allowed to have guns on certain parts of campus. Guns are not allowed, however, on University premises, such as buildings and educational facilities.
The equation of guns with violence has been so pervasive in our culture that the possibility of guns curtailing violence is simply lost or rejected. After all, it is harder to prove if guns have prevented crimes than if guns were used to perpetrate crimes. Here are some thoughts and statistics on concealed carry on campus:
1. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education’s statistics on campus safety, there were about 1,000 criminal offenses in 2011 across four-year public universities in Texas. Those offenses include: rape, burglary, aggravated assault, robbery and vehicle theft, among others. The question is, should individuals be in control of means for self-defense within reasonable limits against significant campus crimes? I know very little about mental issues, but it occurs to me that a person who is mentally unstable would find means to carry out heinous acts regardless of regulations, if his or her fragile psyche compels such action. Therefore, regulating against the lawful bearing of arms is simply a perverse exclusion of law-abiding citizens from self-defense. Whether you personally agree with the choice of means for self-defense is secondary to the person’s right to choose, especially considering the means in question conform with existing laws regulating concealed carry — namely, through a permitting process.
2. To obtain a CHL in Texas, a person has to complete 10 hours of training on gun laws, proficiency, storage and nonviolent dispute resolutions taught by a Texas Department of Public Safety-certified CHL trainer, on top of strict eligibility requirements that cut out those with criminal backgrounds and psychiatric disorders. The process ensures that only law-abiding citizens are allowed to qualify for concealed carry licenses. TDPS reports that out of all the criminal convictions in Texas in 2011, only 120 out of 63,679, or about 0.2 percent of total criminal convictions, were of CHL holders. This strongly suggests that CHL holders are largely law-abiding citizens who simply want to have a means for self-defense.
3. Existing evidence does not point to a potential influx of guns on campus. Young people ages 18-29 constitute only about one out of every nine CHL applicants in Texas. The dominant college-age group (18-24) constitutes less than 5 percent — about 7,000 in raw numbers — of the total applicant pool in the state of Texas. Thus the notion that somehow universities will be flooded with guns as result of allowing law-abiding faculty and students with a CHL to exercise their right to self-defense is mere illusion and, frankly, demagoguery.
Taking these factors into account, it seems far-fetched to alarm against the sort of “armed matriculation” proposed by another columnist last week.
Zeng is the vice president of College Republicans and a government and finance senior from Houston.