The decision to ban or allow concealed weapons on college campuses is a point of contention at many schools — but it’s not just guns that are getting banned.
Some colleges also ban non-lethal weapons that could aid students in self-defense. For instance, pepper spray is legal and accessible to purchase at sporting goods stores, but schools like UMass Amherst and Vasser consider it a weapon and ban it from campus. Arizona State University has a policy that prohibits students from carrying any object or substance designed to inflict a wound or cause injury, including knives with blades longer than five inches, and chemicals like Mace and pepper spray.
With a rise in shootings and assaults on college campuses in recent years, policies like these leave some students wondering how they would defend themselves if they were attacked.
That’s why the Young Americans for Liberty is launching a campaign called “Your Life Your Right,” which aims to educate students on their right to self-defense and reform restrictive campus policies that put law-abiding students in danger.
Throughout the month of November, YAL chapters across the country will host dodgeball games on campuses to illustrate the concept. One side is a “dodgeball-free zone” (mimicking campus “gun-free zones”), where the rule-abiding students have to give up their dodgeball and be defenseless, similar to how law-abiding citizens are left defenseless in gun-free zones.
The campaign hopes to point out that some of the campus policies designed to prevent violent crime can actually cause more harm than good.
“We can’t legislate safety,” said YAL Executive Director Cliff Maloney Jr.
This year, Texas became the eighth state to allow concealed carry of weapons on campus. However, 18 states currently ban concealed carry, and most of the remaining states leave the decision up to each college or university individually.
Gun rights activists argue that more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens leads to less crime. Economist John Lott studied crime data in every county in the United States over 29 years and concluded that concealed carry laws steadily decrease violent crime because criminals are deterred by the risk of attacking an armed person.
Gun control activists on the other hand, argue that increasing access to guns in a campus environment leads to more “reckless” behavior, especially when it comes along with the increased use of drugs and alcohol that is often prevalent on college campuses. A new study by Johns Hopkins University concluded, “Increasing gun availability in campus environments could make far more common acts of aggression, recklessness or self-harm more deadly and, thus, have a deleterious impact on the safety of students, faculty and staff.”
Students for Concealed Carry published a full rebuttal of the Johns Hopkins report, and noted that the study did not include any data analysis from campuses that allow licensed concealed carry.
“Propaganda doesn’t become research just because it’s written on letterhead from a prestigious university,” said Michael Newbern, the public relations director of Students for Concealed Carry. “If these ten professors genuinely wanted to study the issue, they could have conducted a peer-reviewed meta-analysis of the existing literature. Instead, they chose to phone it in with an editorial touting only those outlier studies that reinforce their personal prejudices.”
According to Maloney, the goal of the YAL campaign is to create a new narrative about what self-defense means for students, and the larger goal is to introduce them to the benefits of limited government.
“Big government policies create victims,” he said.