Campus Firearms: Constitutional Right or Accident Waiting to Happen?

Consider this: There is an unstable group of people out there, exceptionally prone to dangerous binge drinking, insufficient sleep, drug use, overworking and having little concern for the consequences of their actions. Luckily for the world at large, they tend to keep to themselves in their own parts of town. Now consider this dangerous group of people given free reign to carry a gun anywhere they please within their small world.

Scary thought, right?

The Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) recently announced its plans to lobby the legislature for its upcoming 2013 session to question the constitutionality of firearm bans on Montana college campuses set by the Board of Regents. The current policy dictates only authorized security officials are allowed to carry firearms on campus. Students living on campus that want access to their guns must store them in a campus gun locker. At Montana State University, there is authorized gun storage at the Roskie, Langford, Johnstone, North Hedges and South Hedges residence halls, while the University of Montana stores firearms at a central location.

The MSSA’s justification for this effort is they believe it is a safety issue for university students, especially in the light of recent campus shootings at Northern Illinois University in 2008 and Virginia Tech in 2007. The organization also believes that the Board of Regents has no constitutional authority, by both the Montana and U.S. constitutions, to bar students from their right to bear arms.

MSSA President Gary Marbut believes the Board of Regents’ policy strips individuals of the right to defend themselves in the event of a shooting. He says of the current law, “These laws are designed to keep students safe from shooters, but the mere policy would not stop someone who has already resolved to committing heinous acts of violence. If they are not deterred by laws regarding assault and murder, why would they comply with an anti-firearms policy?”

Marbut backs this claim with data regarding law enforcement response times for shootings from an April 2008 simulation conducted by the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association which found that the typical response time for law enforcement ranged from six to 30 minutes, during which a would-be shooter could have fired 200 shots before the first officer arrived on scene.

Marbut offers a few guidelines to implement allowing firearms on campuses. His first position is that only licensed carriers would be allowed to possess firearms on campus. Second is the firearms would need to be properly stowed in a holster or case at all times and flashing the gun, “show and tell” if you will, would be forbidden. Third is that in the case of residence halls, both roommates would have to agree to storage of guns in a locked dorm room. The penalty for violating any of these, of course, would be loss of the permission to keep one’s gun on campus.

At this point I must live up to this section’s name and express my own opinion on the issue: I have no right to tell someone whether or not they can own a gun, but the nation-wide culture that pervades the idea that one needs to carry a gun for protection needs further consideration. Many gun-owners advocate their right to protect themselves, but the idea that one would need to protect him/herself at, say, the supermarket or on a college campus is the real problem. To put this idea of needing to protect one’s self in perspective, there have been more deaths by lightning and fatal dog attacks in the last ten years than by school shootings.

As a pacifist, I believe guns are an enabler to an inherently violent and mistrusting culture. One doesn’t even have to leave Montana for evidence of this. Last month, Montana’s self-defense laws took the national stage when Kalispell resident Dan Fredenberg was shot to death while confronting a man about an affair with his wife. Under Montana’s “Castle Doctrine,” the shooter was permitted to freely shoot and kill Fredenberg because the incident occurred on the shooter’s property — his “castle.”

What would have been nothing more than a confrontation about an affair turned into a killing simply because of the presence of guns. Had no guns been involved, the confrontation between the men could have been nothing more than an argument, or at the most, a fist fight.

Now consider that college students in particular are, compared to the populace at large, a more unstable group of people. We are more prone to dangerous binge drinking, drug use, sleep deprivation, and stress and anxiety disorders. Now consider adding easily accessible firearms to this cocktail. It doesn’t take much imagination to see how things could go from chaotic to tragic.

At the end of the day, this can turn into just another argument of ethics of guns and gun control. There are ethics and considerations on both sides of the argument. If this is indeed an issue that goes to the legislature, it is up to you to express your thoughts to legislators, whether you would support firearms being allowed on campus or not.

  • Mike

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, The only thing that allowing concealed carry on campus is going to do, is allow those, who are already allowed to carry under law, to carry in one more place. It’s not going to arm every college kid with a Glock 17 and high capacity magazines

    These, as you put it, “unstable” college student CCW permit holders carry in many other places in Bozeman and strangely I can’t recall one single shooting which involved a CCW permit holder. Not all of us are irresponsible and I resent the implication. Please stop stereotyping.

    That’s fine that you’re a pacifist. Don’t get a gun or a CCW permit. But does that give you the right to deny others their inherent right to self-defense?

    A shooting on campus is highly unlikely, but it is not impossible, so let’s not pretend that it won’t ever happen. I fail to see why wanting to be able to defend yourself wherever you might be is “the real problem”. There’s nothing magical about college campuses that keep criminals with bad intentions out.

    Frankly I’m sick and tired of these arguments being parroted over and over again by the anti-gun crowd.

  • Mason

    As the author is a pacifist I can expect his/her attitude to be against firearms. However, as a pacifist the author has to accept the inherent perils and dangers of society. Frankly put, if you walk into a dangerous circumstance or if that circumstance presents itself to you what are you going to do? The police or the military are not always going to be there to protect you. We live in a world that has its share of sick and / or mentally unstable individuals combined with those who are just plain evil.
    People hell-bent on doing terrible things to others are going to find the means to commit those acts. Whether it be guns, bombs, bows and arrows, knives, or any other weapon of opportunity they are going to commit to a weapon(s), formulate a plan of action, execute that plan, and invariably take their own life as a conclusion to their evil act. Those of this sort are the minority. Society is inherently good. By enacting laws to suppress a good person’s ability to defend themselves or others does no good but to empower the evil-doers by weakening the good. Furthermore, any additional laws that infringe upon the second amendment are unconstitutional. The SCOTUS Heller vs The District of Columbia case affirmed the right to own and bear arms as an individual right. Any effort to erode the Constitution of the United States contradicts everything our founding fathers intended for our nation to survive.
    Enforce the current laws on the books; hold those accountable who would do evil in our communities, suppressing our constitutional rights is an act in the wrong direction. Our country is not perfect, but it is inarguably the freest nation on the planet. Do not allow large government to take away what our founders intended to be God given rights.