Supporters refute notion that concealed carry laws lead to higher gun violence

BATON ROUGE, La. – In a legislative session filled with bills to heavily alter Louisiana’s higher education system, students of public universities and colleges may soon experience one more adjustment: concealed weapons on campus.

HB 413, sponsored by Representative Ernest Wooton (I – Belle Chase), would allow licensed individuals to bring concealed firearms onto campuses of public universities, colleges, and post-secondary vocational schools. The bill was introduced to the House on April 25.

The state’s 36,000 concealed handgun permit holders would have the same self-defense rights they possess elsewhere, with a few notable exceptions. Licensed firearm carriers would be required to inform school officials of their intent to carry on campus. In addition, residence halls and sporting venues would retain their “gun-free zone” statuses.

HB 413 isn’t Rep. Wooton’s first stab at bringing firearms closer to schools. Last year, his HB 556, signed into law by Governor Jindal, negated the 1,000 foot “Gun Free School Zone” that previously shielded school campuses.

Louisiana isn’t the only state pursuing looser guns laws in the name of self-defense. More than twenty states introduced similar concealed carry bills this year, with legislation awaiting decision in Michigan and Nevada.

In Texas, the epicenter for this issue, a campus carry bill has been approved by the state Senate. Governor Rick Perry has already assured the constituency of his intention to sign the bill, despite outspoken opposition from the presidents of Texas’ two largest public universities: Texas A&M and UT-Austin.

So far, representatives of the Louisiana State University Education System haven’t publicly expressed opposition to HB 413, though they have raised concerns.

In particular, the office of LSU’s Chancellor stated that the “flow of ideas” may be compromised if weapons were present in classrooms. The idea that armed students could effectively thwart a gun-toting assailant was also challenged. In the event of a school shooting, “a permit doesn’t indicate that the carrier can properly assess the situation and take appropriate action.” Well-intentioned students may also inadvertently draw fire upon themselves from members of law enforcement who, in crisis situations, perceive anyone with weapons to be threats.

The grass-roots, nonpartisan Students for Concealed Carry on Campus defends students’ right to self-defense no matter the location. Founded by college students, professors, and university staff in the wake of the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech, SCCC has grown to be a resounding voice in this debate.

In response to claims that allowing guns on campus would result in a less safe learning environment, SCCC  notes there is yet to be a single reported incident at the more 70 campuses that already allow concealed carry by licensed individuals.

David Burnett, the organization’s director and president of public relations, addresses an apparent double standard regarding the right to protection on campuses.

“This is about people who already responsibly carry elsewhere in the state, including restaurants, shopping malls, movie theaters, churches and banks. No one feels unsafe in those places, even though the odds are someone there is armed. Yet if a citizen walks onto a college campus, their right to self-defense is taken away.”

HB 413 would pardon colleges and universities of liability for damage, injury, or even death in the event of a misuse of a concealed weapon.

Justin Spittler is a research assistant with the Pelican Institute for Public Policy. Spittler studies economics at Loyola University in New Orleans, and you can follow him on twitter.