As the summer draws to a close, young adults, as well as university staff and faculty members, are preparing for the first day back on campus. Schools are meant to be a safe haven from the everyday violence that we see in our neighborhoods, and ensuring that safety means keeping guns off campus. This year, lawmakers and gun violence prevention advocates in 17 states did their part to keep young people out of harm’s way by defeating bills that would have allowed loaded weapons on campus or in school buildings. Even conservative states like Georgia, Florida, and Arizona stopped legislation that would have allowed CCW holders to bring guns into university facilities.
Unfortunately, the gun lobby has made increasing the number of deadly weapons on campus and in schools a top priority. We already know that permissive concealed carry laws are tied to increases in violent crime and that workplaces that allow guns are significantly more dangerous to workers—more guns on campus pose a risk for people who live and work at schools too. Additionally, the university experience introduces new pressures to students, which contribute to an increase in risky behavior—like drinking and drug use—that makes college campuses an especially dangerous place for relaxed gun access.
The gun lobby is also pushing an agenda that suggests campus carry is a safety measure that protects young women from sexual assault. In theory, victims could use a gun to defend against a sexual predator, but the reality is darker—assailants would be allowed to carry weapons too. Sexual violence on campuses is frequently committed by a friend or acquaintance, and often linked to situations where people are intoxicated—a potentially deadly scenario if concealed weapons are present.
Additionally, faculty have discussed the burden that guns in the classroom places on the First Amendment right of academic freedom. As they have observed, the presence of guns in the classroom could impair the candid discourse so critical to the collegiate classroom experience. University professors in Texas, where campus carry was enacted last year, have filed lawsuits to have the new law blocked, and some have even resigned over the issue.
Allowing firearms on campus exposes young people to more guns, increasing the risk of suicide, homicide, and injury. There’s simply no credible statistical evidence that students or teachers carrying weapons reduces violence in an educational setting. The gun lobby’s specious claim that arming schoolteachers, staff, students, or administrators will make campuses safer won’t actually prevent the next school shooting, but smart gun laws coupled with strong gun safety and violence prevention education can help save lives and reduce injury. Young adults need safe spaces to grow and develop. The threat of gun violence shouldn’t come from inside a school building.
To learn more about guns in schools, check out our policy page.
For a roundup and analysis of the state legislative cycle’s gun bills, read the latest issue of Trendwatch.