Campus Handgun Carry Debate Rekindles With Lone Star College Shooting

A Harris Precinct 4 Constable blocks off an entrance to the Lone Star College North Harris campus after a shooting on Tuesday
A Harris Precinct 4 Constable blocks off an entrance to the Lone Star College North Harris campus after a shooting on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013 in Houston. The shooting on campus wounded three people and sent students fleeing for safety as officials placed the campus on lockdown, officials said. Harris County Sheriff's Maj. Armando Tello said authorities had detained a person of interest. Police did not provide any details about the people who were wounded. (AP Photo/Patric Schneider)

Less than a week before Tuesday's shooting at a Texas community college, a national organization of college students proposed its answer to campus gun violence: Allow more students to be armed.

Students for Concealed Carry, which got its start after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, has consistently pushed for legislators across the country to allow licensed concealed handguns on college campuses. The group sued the University of Colorado and won a major state Supreme Court ruling last year, which overturned the university's longstanding ban on guns.

The organization is supporting legislation introduced in six states so far this year that would allow concealed handguns on college campuses.

"Gun-free policies are an open invitation to psychopaths," said David Burnett, the group's director of public relations, in a statement last year after the Colorado Supreme Court ruling.

After Tuesday's shooting at Lone Star College that left three wounded, Burnett told HuffPost: "What we're doing isn't working."

"We all want solutions, but Texas already outlaws guns on campus," Burnett said. "So what are we going to do? Ban them harder? Put up twice as many signs and stickers?"

Details of the Texas shooting remain incomplete. Authorities said they believe it stemmed from an argument between two men, including one who may have been a student.

The incident and at least three other shootings on U.S. college campuses this month have revived a debate over the wisdom of allowing students, faculty or other staff members to bring concealed weapons onto school property. It also reflects a larger debate over the right to have concealed handguns in places that have traditionally been off-limits, such as churches, parks and bars -- an issue that has gained prominence in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., massacre of elementary school children.

Groups such as Students for Concealed Carry and the National Rifle Association have argued that laws prohibiting concealed handguns on college campuses leave students and faculty vulnerable to criminals. Most college administrators, gun-control advocates and groups such as the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus argue that allowing guns on college campuses would increase the likelihood of violence and accidents.

"College students engage in a great many high-risk behaviors including binge drinking and drug and drug abuse, and are also at elevated risks for suicide," the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence notes on its website. "Introducing guns into this environment will increase the danger to students every hour of every day."

Andy Pelosi, a spokesman for the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, added that allowing more guns on campus may lead to more innocent bystanders being harmed. "On college campuses, you can have a high density of people, and that crowding can create confusion and make it hard for people to identify what the real threat is," he said.

Representatives for Students for Concealed Carry said they have no affiliation with the NRA or other gun lobbying organizations. Burnett said members of its chapters at universities across the country network through social media, and take no positions on gun control measures or concealed carry restrictions in places other than college campuses.

But the group's goals mirror NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre's philosphy that "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

"It's not just a political talking point," Burnett said. "It's a tactical reality. An active shooter will not stop unless confronted."

The group has pushed for loosening gun restrictions on college campuses across the country, including in Texas, arguing that allowing licensed and trained carriers of handguns on campuses will increase safety.

Last week, Texas state Sen. Brian Birdwell (R) introduced legislation that would allow students, faculty and staff on college campuses to carry concealed handguns "for personal protection." Similar legislative efforts have begun this year in five other states: Missouri, Georgia, Indiana, Wyoming and Arkansas.

Students for Concealed Carry has pushed for more states to follow, pointing to three other shootings on college campuses so far this month -- at Chicago State University, Hazard Community College in Kentucky and Stevens Institute of Business and Arts in St. Louis.

Last year, lawmakers introduced similar measures in more than a dozen states, but none passed. In 2011, lawmakers in Mississippi and Wisconsin passed legislation opening campuses to concealed handguns.

Concealed weapons on college campuses are banned outright in 21 states, and 23 states allow individual universities to decide whether to allow them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Only five states have provisions allowing concealed handguns on campuses: Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.



Recent Shootings On College Campuses In The Past 3 Years