The bluster and passion over campus carry in Texas and other states is irrelevant, one associate dean in Arkansas argues.
“If you really think that there are no guns on college campuses in Texas, or elsewhere, because there is a law that forbids having guns on campus, you are mistaken,” Erik Gilbert, an associate dean and history professor at Arkansas State University, wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Students already bring concealed weapons onto campuses illegally, he said. Campus-carry laws, which have sparked contentious debates in Texas, Missouri, Alabama, and Georgia, among other states, won’t affect the safety of students, professors, and faculty that much.
“If those illegally armed students were not moved to violence by the content of your course or the statements of their fellow students, it seems highly improbable that a new group of legally armed students will prove to be more volatile or violence-prone than their scofflaw peers,” Gilbert wrote.
Media coverage and local culture affect the campus debate. It’s difficult to say with certainty, but in rural regions and campuses in the south and west, a concealed weapon illegally on campus is more common than in urban areas or the northeast. Gun ownership rates are higher in those areas, and students or staff could carry a weapon onto campus unintentionally or for convenience.
In a strange way, that should be encouraging. Gun owners with a concealed-handgun permit are extremely law abiding. They carry responsibly and haven’t posed a threat on campus. Gilbert’s over-arching theme concerns “flawed risk assessment.” Talking about guns on campus gives students and staff anxiety. The possibility that someone could invade a refuge of intellectual pursuits with a gun and the intent to harm is alarming. Regardless of the likelihood of it happening, those people on campus who aren’t used to guns will feel threatened.
Concerns about accidents and unintentional harm are legitimate, as is the concern of irrational action from a gun owner. Luckily, post-campus carry states aren’t in a dystopian future. The future, Gilbert reminds his audience, is now. Even with guns on campus, the threat to higher education is minimal, and not much of a change from the present.