10 States Debating Guns on Campus
Last year was a banner year for proponents of gun carrying on college campuses. No fewer than 23 state legislatures saw bills introduced that would allow either faculty or students, or both, to bring firearms onto school grounds. The vast majority of the lawmakers in these states declined to change their current laws on the subject. Rather than giving up the fight, supporters of college carry laws have been rejuvenated by recent school shootings and have brought the issue back around in 2012. In these 10 states across the country, the great debate rages on.
Looser campus carry laws have been a subject of debate here since 2007, after the worst college shooting spree on American soil. State delegate Bob Marshall tried to get a bill passed in 2008 that would allow faculty members with permits to carry concealed guns on campus, citing the fact that it was a faculty member who saved several student lives by barring the door to the Virginia Tech shooter, although he himself was shot through the door and died. The bill failed, but Marshall revived it in 2012, only to have it defeated again. However, a recent court ruling that Virginia Tech had been negligent in its response to the school shooting could factor in to future attempts at passing a campus carry law.
As it stands, Georgia law prohibits even students with permits from carrying guns on campus or keeping them in their dorm rooms. The weapons must stay locked in their cars. But a spate of violence at the end of 2011, coupled with another shooting at Virginia Tech, prompted legislator Stephen Allison to introduce HB 981 that would have allowed license holders to carry guns on campuses, plus in bars, school zones, government buildings, churches, the State Capitol … you get the idea. The bill failed, along with a bill allowing hunting with silencers and a bill letting owners of stolen guns used in crimes carry them without a permit upon their return.
Arizona lawmakers have been plugging away at getting guns onto campus since last year, in the aftermath of a shooting that left six dead and nearly killed Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. SB 1467 made it to the House, where it passed 33-24, but Gov. Jan Brewer surprisingly vetoed it, saying it was “poorly written” and could accidentally make gun carriers lawbreakers. So Sen. Ron Gould reworked the bill and re-introduced it in 2012 as SB 1474. It died before getting to Gov. Brewer, but she vetoed another more general bill that would allow guns into all public buildings in Arizona.
Since 2003, Colorado’s Concealed Carry Act has made it legal to carry a gun with a permit “in all areas of the state” other than federal buildings, K-12 schools, and a few other locations. College campuses were not exempt. However, the University of Colorado took the liberty of banning their students from carrying guns on campus. Members of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus sued CU and lost in 2009, but won their appeal in 2010. The latest development came from the State Supreme Court in March: CU’s ban violates the law. It appears the school will be joining Colorado State in letting students carry.
Texas lawmakers attempted to sign three separate campus carry bills into law in 2011, to no avail. It was not a lack of political support that kept the bills off the books; the governor was vocally in favor of it, and two-thirds of the Senate and over half the House were on board. But the bills faced procedural problems, and key Democratic supporters backed out when they realized what a campus carry bill would mean for insurance rates for universities. One of the bill’s sponsors fully expects the issue to come up again in the next session, in 2013.
Kansas is already a fairly lenient state for gun owners. Anyone with a permit can carry a concealed weapon into any public building that doesn’t have a “no guns” sign, an option all Kansas colleges seem to be taking advantage of. Enter House Bill 2353, The Personal and Family Protection Act. Under it, guns could only be banned from buildings with security measures like metal detectors. Despite strong opposition from campus police officers and others, the bill passed the House in March and was sent to the Senate. But the fight is not over; the Senate recently narrowly voted to shelf the bill indefinitely.
Michigan gun proponents were thrilled in March at the news that a Senate bill had been drafted that would put an end to “pistol free zones,” which included college campuses, as well as ease restrictions on a number of other handgun rules. The bill had been promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the group behind a Florida law that has been in the news quite a bit lately. But it doesn’t look like SB 59 will get the chance to cause any controversies — the head of Michigan Open Carry says the bill will die without leaving the Senate.
- New Hampshire:
This Spring, New Hampshire legislators took a hard look at gun laws. A bill that would prevent any publicly owned building (i.e. public universities) from banning firearms from their premises cleared the house 180-144. The governor pledged to veto it, calling it “uncalled for and unnecessary,” but the Senate made it a moot point by moving it into the purgatory of “further study.” The Senate also plans to study allowing gun owners to transport fully loaded guns, as well as a bill removing the need for a license to concealed carry.
Oregon lawmakers and judges have made it clear in recent months that they support gun ownership, including the right to concealed carrying on college campuses. In September 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled state universities could not ban students with permits from carrying guns on campus. In this year’s legislative session, a last-minute bill banning guns on campus was barely defeated, 14-15. The House also passed its third bill in three years protecting concealed handgun license confidentiality, this year with the overwhelming “yea” vote of 24-5.
After his bill requiring public colleges to allow guns on campus ran out of steam in the 2011 session, Sen. Jim Banks said he hoped to revisit the issue next year. And he did, resulting in “Preliminary Draft No. 3578.” The proposal was so short-lived that it didn’t even get to the bill-naming stage. Schools like Purdue and Indiana had strongly opposed the legislation, and for the near future at least, they and every other public university in the state will continue to ban firearms from their campuses in the absence of a state law regulating campus carry.