Guest Commentary

Look at facts in the campus firearm debate

Tom, a 21-year-old student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, now carries a Glock 19 pistol in his backpack to class now that a new Kansas law allows students and others to carry concealed handguns on the campuses of more than 30 Kansas public colleges without a permit and without training.
Tom, a 21-year-old student at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, now carries a Glock 19 pistol in his backpack to class now that a new Kansas law allows students and others to carry concealed handguns on the campuses of more than 30 Kansas public colleges without a permit and without training. The Star

As college classes start up in Kansas this fall, it’s a good time to take stock of the rise in the number of schools where people can carry guns for protection. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 11 states now mandate that concealed handgun permit holders be allowed to carry on public college campuses. There are 12 states if we count Michigan, which only allows permit holders to carry if they do so openly. Twenty-three other states leave the decision up to individual colleges.

Gun control advocates in Kansas predict disaster, just as they have in each new state that adopted campus carry. Unable to point to any actual catastrophes, opponents do their best to imagine what might go wrong.

But at school after school, no problems have occurred. Over the decades, not a single permit holder who was allowed to carry on university property has committed a crime with his gun. No permit holder has ever gotten angry over a grade and started shooting. As far as we know, no permit holder has ever used his gun to threaten anyone on campus. There have only been six accidental discharges, all of which involved minor injuries. In no case did someone other than the permit holder get a hold of the gun.

Of course, the media loves giving national attention to professors who do silly things, such as resigning from their jobs in protest or wearing protective body armor to teach classes.

Professor Kevin Willmott is worried that the University of Kansas will become a “war zone” now that it has started allowing campus carry. He has promised to wear body armor throughout the entire school year as “a constant reminder to all of us that our students could have a gun, and in an emergency, this could make a bad situation even worse.” Texas community colleges have also just started with campus carry, and San Antonio College Professor Charles K. Smith is also wearing body armor, claiming that the policy “increases the chances of something [bad] happening.”

In May, associate history professor Jacob Dorman resigned from the University of Kansas. He accepted another tenured position at a public university in a non-campus-carry state. In his resignation letter, Dorman predicted that Kansas would be “driving off faculty members.”

Dorman also claims that “arming students has done nothing to quell active shooter situations because students do not have the training to effectively combat shooters.” My research has found numerous instances of concealed handgun permit holders with no more training stopping dozens public shootings.

Willmott and Dorman are only two out of 2,600 faculty members at the University of Kansas. Likewise, just two of 20,322 have left the University of Texas System on account of campus carry. One of those, a visiting retired professor, would likely have left anyway. And the body-armor-wearing Charles Smith is just one out of over 43,000 faculty in the Texas community college system.

Kansas professors have had several years’ notice that the policy would take effect — plenty of time to look for other jobs.

It is a wonder how these professors ever go off-campus. After all, there are over 1.15 million concealed handgun permit holders in Texas. Kansans don’t even need permits to carry. Professors can’t go to restaurants, movie theaters, or grocery stores without being around legally-carried concealed handguns.

The real surprise is that more professors haven’t fled. After all, professors tend to be very liberal. Nationwide, Democratic faculty members outnumber their Republican colleagues by anywhere from 3-to-1 in economics to 30-to-1 in anthropology, according to a study by San Jose State University and George Mason University professors.

Democrats are much more likely than Republicans are to oppose concealed carry.

According to a 2015 Gallup survey, just 31 percent of Democrats (versus 82 percent of Republicans) think that having a handgun makes them safer.

Another 2016 Gallup poll showed that 83 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of Democrats thought that allowing more people to carry permitted concealed handguns would stop mass public shootings. Again, the difference of opinion is large.

In fact, permit holders have been extremely law-abiding, with permits being revoked for firearms-related violations at rates of thousandths of one percentage point. Civilian permit holders are less likely than police officers to be convicted of a firearms violation.

Many liberal professors are doomsayers about concealed carry. But if they really believe their claims, they would have left Kansas and Texas long ago. A year from now, when fears have subsided, people will realize how little the professors actually know.

John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author most recently of “The War on Guns.”

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