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Ban guns and prioritize campus safety

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Published: Monday, March 19, 2012

Updated: Monday, March 19, 2012 22:03

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Mara Sassoon

Colorado’s Supreme Court recently struck down the University of Colorado’s ban on concealed firearms. While carrying weapons without a permit is still banned from the campus, those with a permit to have concealed weapons must be allowed to bring them on campus.

The Supreme Court didn’t declare the ban unconstitutional. It made its ruling based on a technicality that had only allowed for concealed weapon bans in elementary schools, secondary schools and public buildings with security checkpoints, but the ruling did not include universities. The court could have included universities, but chose not to.

When looking at decisions like these, we must consider all aspects of the issue. The decision is important and there are ramifications, but why is this even a problem in the first place?

There are issues of both rights and security at play.

I feel that universities are primarily places of learning and should be shielded from the outside world to an extent.

Obviously, students should be aware of issues outside the university and should have outlets to express themselves on campus, but that doesn’t mean that the issues have to physically manifest themselves.

That is to say, just because someone supports gun rights doesn’t mean he has to have his guns on campus to pledge his support.

There are already measures in place to protect the campus. To me, this isn’t an issue of the larger matter of gun rights in this nation, but of gun rights at universities. Whichever side you fall on in the larger debate, there are plenty of reasons to support universities’ gun bans.

The first issue for a school to address is why students would feel the need to bring a gun on campus at all, or even professors and other faculty, for that matter.

If the community felt completely safe, there would be no need. To avoid these sorts of debates, schools need to focus on comprehensively improving the safety of their campuses and ensuring that community members feel safe. That doesn’t mean simply increasing the number of gun-carrying police officers.

This would send the same message that guns are equivalent to or even facilitate safety. Schools need to give community members more ways to feel in control of their own safety without something as drastic as a gun. There will always be those who believe they have a patriotic obligation to carry a gun, but for the majority, it’s important to offer them other options.

Whether the school offers more self-defense classes, has more emergency posts or even offers for security escorts to students who feel unsafe walking home alone, there are plenty of alternatives to guns.

It is equally important to not undermine the rights of the students. College is all about expression and sharing beliefs. The same way we need to be open-minded of other religions, we need to be open-minded about all beliefs. This issue will not be solved by suppressing the rights of students or by imposing a belief system.

However, universities can combat the problem by listening to students and acknowledging what they are feeling. They must get to the source of the problem, so that even if schools are able to ban firearms, the students won’t feel as if they aren’t heard.

I’m not sounding any alarms about this. I don’t think that allowing people with gun permits on campus will suddenly result in mass shootings. The same permit regulations apply. People must be over 21 and are subject to background checks. Personally, I think the regulations aren’t strict enough, but that’s another issue altogether.

Hypothetically, the majority of students wouldn’t be able to have guns at all.

What is still scary to think about is that college is still a developmental period, and many of us aren’t as grown up as we like to think we are. While Columbine High School has not had another major shooting since the massacre in 1999, all it takes is one incident to forever scar the reputation of a school and shatter the sense of safety in a community. Likewise, Virginia Tech University has been marked by its tragic massacre. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to finally allow for a ban on firearms.

Furthermore, allowing firearms on campus sends the wrong message about the school because issues like these distract from academics and turn attention elsewhere. A school could have great marks across the board, but if prospective students don’t feel safe, they won’t attend, and their parents won’t let them. While some insist on expressing their constitutional right to bear arms, they don’t realize how they are adversely affecting the perception of the community at large.

This isn’t an issue of the school trying to limit constitutional rights.

This is a common sense issue of school simply not being the appropriate place for guns. Gun owner or not, most people could probably agree with that.

But in order for a community to buy into that line of thinking, the school needs to do more to show that they have everyone’s safety at heart.

Schools need to realize that they can remove the need for guns without infringing upon anyone’s rights.

Until that balance is found, the community’s safety is in jeopardy.

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