In a time when gun control is a high-profile issue, an important aspect of mass shootings is sometimes overlooked in the midst of federal and state arms legislature — that of weapon control on college campuses.
The question of concealed weapon laws on college campuses is a matter of state legislature, according to the National Conference of State Legislature. The states are somewhat split on this issue, with the very slight majority leaving it up to schools themselves to decide. California, however, has a complete ban on carrying weapons on college campuses, unless the person has a concealed weapon permit.
California Penal Code 626.9, also known as the Gun-Free School Zone Act, was set in place in 1995. The act incriminates “any person who possesses a firearm in a place that the person knows, or should reasonably know, is a school zone.” Depending on the circumstances, the punishment ranges from two years of imprisonment to felony charges.
The issue comes to light after the tragic string of mass shootings on college campuses. The most highly publicized of these is what is now known as the Virginia Tech massacre, a mass shooting by a student in April 2007 that killed 33 people.
Since the tragic incident at Virginia Tech, shootings on college campuses have become less shocking and more commonplace because of their sheer number. According to extensive research by investigative reporting organization Mother Jones, two mass shootings have occurred on college campuses throughout the United States since the Virginia Tech massacre — and that only includes shootings where at least four people were murdered. According to the Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis cutting tool, eight counts of murder or non-negligent manslaughter occurred on four-year campuses in 2009, with that number rising to nine for both 2010 and 2011.
This past week brought news of yet another shooting. A young man opened fire on campus at Lone Star College in The Woodlands, Texas on Jan. 22. No one was killed, but three were injured. Texas is a state like California that has placed an overall ban on carrying weapons on campus, so the question this incident brings up is one at the core of nearly every debate on arms control: will gun control actually reduce the number of violent incidents?
Though California does have a ban in place, Cal Poly students are still passionate about their opinions on gun control in the context of a school setting.
“I think that in light of the number of shootings at colleges it’s important to have conversations about guns on campus,” biomedical engineering junior Joshua Wilbur said. “I feel like I hear about another one every week and it’s definitely a huge piece of the whole gun control puzzle that’s such a big deal nationally right now.”
Colleges in those states that do allow schools to determine their gun control rules have a variety of methods and restrictions. Some schools require students to pass a safety course before carrying a weapon on campus.
Colorado, in particular, has recently received much criticism for allowing guns on college campuses, especially in light of the shooting at an Aurora theater in July 2012. In 2011, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the University of Colorado’s policy of banning guns on its campuses conflicted with state law, so the current legislature rules that weapons may be carried on college campuses within the state.
A variety of student organizations both for and against the right to carry concealed weapons on college campuses have cropped up. These include Students for Concealed Carry, The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus and Students for Gun Free Schools. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has also voiced its opinions on the issue, stating it supports the allowance of legal concealed weapons on campus as a provision of the rights stated in the Second Amendment.
The NRA has additionally created a program specifically for college students. Called NRA U, it is a two-hour educational seminar on gun safety and on the Second Amendment. The program is currently not available at Cal Poly.