OPINION: Concealed carry does not belong on campus

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I want to start by stating my stance against the law that makes carrying a concealed firearm on Kansas college campuses legal is not founded in ignorance of fear of guns.

I was taught how to shoot single-shot rifles and shotguns at the 4-H camp I now work at. I know how to properly hold a handgun. And I have spent quality time with my family shooting clay pigeons.

Guns should be used for legal, ethical hunting. Guns should be used for safe recreation. They can also be utilized for personal defense in a life-or-death situation with no other option. Guns have their time and place, which should never include school grounds, especially universities and colleges.

Concealed carry on campus is an issue that centers around safety on both sides of the argument. Those who choose to carry a concealed firearm in other legal spaces may do so for their own personal safety, intending only to use it when they are in a life-threatening situation. On the flip side—for those who do not carry—the concern may be that they are less safe with a higher number of armed citizens on campus.

A counterargument here is some people who carry firearms have had the proper training and know when to use them, how to store them and carry them on their person. In short, they are responsible gun owners. However, Governor Sam Brownback approved a bill in 2015 that supports “constitutional carry,” meaning that anyone 21 or older can carry a concealed handgun legally without a permit or training. This means any person 21 or older can potentially be carrying a lethal weapon they may not know how to use.

I am not afraid of my peers who know their gun safety; I am afraid of the people who will carry guns without knowing the responsibility and liability they have for the lives around them.

According to an article from “Everytown for Gun Safety,” 75 percent of school shootings in the U.S. happen on college campuses. The same source reported “a quarter of documented incidents” happen after verbal arguments. This leads to another concern: this law will inhibit free speech in the classroom.

Philip Nel, a professor of English who is leaving the university due to the campus carry law, expressed his concerns in the Collegian last September. As Nel said, “in addition to increasing the risk of suicide and fatal accident, armed students make other students uncomfortable and squelch debate.” This is true for faculty and students who teach or study concepts that can be considered controversial, like gender studies and religion.

Despite my moral opposition to having guns on school grounds, having basic knowledge of guns and gun safety makes me feel more comfortable with concealed carry becoming legal on all Kansas university campuses this Saturday.

However, this is where Kansas State University has gone wrong. The university has not said or done anything to properly inform its current and potential students about concealed carry on campus.

Emporia State University, for example, held an open forum with administrators on the topic of concealed carry on campus. Students were able to ask questions regarding how concealed carry operates and how it will look on campus, plus the details of how ESU will handle firearms in dorms and at sporting events. ESU students had a better opportunity to learn about this law going into effect and can better support a safe campus environment.

So why has K-State kept this law quiet? Why are more open forums and educational events to prepare the campus for concealed carry not being offered? The university is afraid the publicity of this law will turn potential and current students away.

Our freshman-to-sophomore retention rate is at an all-time high, 85 percent. Could concealed carry on campus affect that rate? Only time will tell, but K-State is already hurting from this. At least four faculty members are leaving campus because of the law, as reported by the Mercury.

In my eyes, the only people this law benefits are pro-gun legislators, who may never visit certain campuses and/or do not conceal carry themselves, and people who can and want to legally conceal carry. Allowing concealed carry on campus creates an unsafe atmosphere at K-State and other college and university campuses throughout the state. Misinterpretation of what it means to responsibly carry a firearm opens the door to more gun-related incidents.

If K-State wants to foster a supportive, educational campus, exemption from this law—or overturning it completely—is necessary.

Dene Dryden is a sophomore in English. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

[Correction: When this article was originally published, it was reported that Philip Nel was leaving Kansas State University. This is incorrect. Nel is taking a leave of absence during the upcoming fall 2017 semester and has not decided at this time to vacate his position. The Collegian regrets the error.]