Story by Alyssa Gum
SALT LAKE CITY— There have been laws banning carrying concealed handguns since before the Civil War. From 1920-1930, many states adopted the Uniform Firearms Act, which said that citizens could not carry a concealed firearm without a permit. After World War II, states began to issue concealed carry permits to anyone who applied for one and who didn’t have attributes that disqualified them. In 2004, Utah became the first state where all public universities were required to allow students with permits to carry concealed weapons on campus. With recent news of shootings and gun violence, the debate over guns has been, once again, at the forefront of political debate. Moreover, the increasing number of schools that allow campus carry has added to the list of issues being debated between gun control and gun rights advocates.
According to a recent John Hopkins University study, data cited from the National Crime Victimization Survey shows that there are approximately 102,000 self-reported instances of self-defensive gun use per year, making this a rare occurrence. In this report the authors argue that to effectively stop an active shooter, there are a lot of skills and experience required. “Shooting accurately and making appropriate judgments about when and how to shoot in chaotic, high-stress situations requires a high level of familiarity with tactics and the ability to manage stress under intense pressure,” the study asserts. The authors support this claim by citing statistics of shooting inaccuracy by police officers who are thoroughly trained. “There is no reason to believe that college students, faculty and civilian staff will shoot accurately in active shooter situations when they have only passed minimal training requirements for a permit to carry.”
Julie Gazran, a representative from Students for Gun Free Schools, agrees that students don’t need guns on campus to defend themselves. College campuses are some of the safest places in the United States and with armed law enforcement officers trained to protect students and prevent potential violent incidents, says Gazran. Indeed, most students at the University of Utah appear to agree with Gazran. In a poll taken of 62 University of Utah undergraduate students, only 32 percent of students said that they felt campus was safer because of its concealed carry policy.
“Utah law prohibits weapons on school property, including college campuses, except for firearms that are in the possession of a concealed weapons permit holder. Other narrow exceptions apply, such as guns carried by law enforcement officials,” wrote Michael Young, former president of The University of Utah, in an e-mail to students and staff. In Utah, to obtain a concealed carry permit you must be 21 years of age (you can also get a provisional permit at age 18), fill out an application, send in a valid fingerprint card, send in a passport quality photo, complete a firearms course, and pass a background check. There are many different offenses and conditions that can disqualify someone from being able to obtain a concealed carry permit.
Still, the issue may not be so simple.
Todd Hicken, the Rocky Mountain Regional Director for Students for Concealed Carry, is a strong proponent for allowing students with legal permits to carry concealed firearms on campus. “The only people who legally can bring them onto campus are police officers and concealed carry permit holders,” says Hicken.
Many who disagree with campus carry argue that campus police officers have the ability to protect students because they are trained to do so and have the ability to use their firearms correctly. Because of this, students do not need to have weapons on campus. In contrast to this narrative, police officers only receive an average of 12-14 weeks of training, and the majority of that is not for firearms. Most people who obtain a concealed carry permit (6.5% of the adult population) take the time to practice shooting and keep up with their techniques, says Hicken.
Spencer Eiting, a sophomore student at the University of Utah and provisional concealed carry permit holder, regularly practices shooting at the gun range. He has been shooting since he was young and he visits the range every few weeks. “I feel comfortable with my aim, especially at the range where I’d have to use my weapon if I needed to,” says Eiting. He feels safer with a gun on campus. Campuses are typically regarded as safe areas, but this may not be the case. A study by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, which compared the school years from 2001-2006 with those from 2011-2016, found that shootings on college campuses in this time period had increased by 153%.
In 2016 at the University of Utah, there were 8 cases of rape, 9 cases of aggravated assault, and 11 instances of domestic violence. Whether the solution to these problems is decreasing the amount of people wielding guns or allowing more people to defend themselves is unclear, but this will surely continue to be a dividing issue for years to come.