Monday, February 01, 2016
Reiboldt explains gun legislation
Last week a Missouri Senate committee held hearings on two bills that seek to allow college and university students with a legal conceal carry (CC) permit to do so on our state campuses. Supporters of these measures see them as building on 2014 legislation that lowered from 21 to 19 the legal age requirement for conceal carry permits in Missouri, legislation that was vetoed by Governor Nixon but overturned by the General Assembly and ultimately became Missouri law. They state the overall objective of the proposed new legislation is to maintain a safe environment for our students and give them the right to protect themselves on campuses. In regard to this controversial issue, all thirteen of our four-year Missouri universities and several community colleges oppose the bills.
Senate Bill 731, if approved as proposed, would give students with a CC permit permission to carry on campuses, disregarding any administrative ability to say otherwise. The bill lets institutions opt out of the CC provision if they agree to station armed guards and install metal detectors at the entrances of every building on the college or university campuses. Those opposed to this measure say that it would be extremely costly to comply.
Senate Bill 589, if approved as proposed, would not give institutions provisions for opting out of allowing CC permit holders to carry on their campuses. However, certain areas—i.e., large stadiums and places of worship—would be exempt. SB 589 and SB 731 will also apply to private colleges and universities in Missouri if they receive any state money. Currently, school administrators at both private and public higher education facilities in Missouri may remove persons from campus for carrying a concealed weapon, though it is not now a criminal offense to carry if the individual has a proper permit to do so.
In Missouri a CC permit requires 8 hours of training with a licensed instructor. Several law enforcement officers who testified in opposition to the Senate bills said that CC training does not equip a person to respond to an active shooter situation and CC holders are not prepared for such encounters. However, supporters of the Senate bills maintain that it is not the purpose to respond to an active shooter but only for individuals to protect themselves in the event of a life threatening situation on campus.
Part of the idea of the proposed legislation comes from the 2007 shooting on the Virginia Tech University campus where 32 individuals were killed before the shooter took his own life. A college president testifying in opposition to the Senate bills maintains that, if passed, they would actually make college campuses less safe because, in his opinion, “there isn’t a problem that needs to be fixed.” So far there have been very few incidents of mass shootings on college and university campuses, though there have been multiple cases of assault.
Some of the main concerns as far as CC on campuses center around dormitories and residential halls. Opponents theorize that there could be multiple problems, perhaps in the form of accidental shootings or of weapons being stolen from dorm rooms. In addition, it is estimated that as many as one-half of the students on state college campuses binge drink, which would certainly not be conducive to safe and responsible handling if firearms are present. Another concern being voiced is that of suicide, especially as a result of emotional break-ups in relationships between couples.
All CC laws are regulated on a state-by-state basis, and at this time there are no federal laws dealing with CC except at federal facilities or installations. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, seven states now approve CC on college and university campuses. Twenty-two states leave the decision up to individual schools and twenty-one have banned CC completely from their campuses.
As SB 731, SB 589 and other similar House bills make their way through the legislative process, lawmakers must seriously examine the pros and cons associated with permitting CC on Missouri campuses. We want parents and guardians of students to feel comfortable that their children are in a safe environment when they send them off to our state’s institutions of higher education.
The above mentioned bills are just some of the proposals being considered during this session, but they are a long way from being approved or from becoming Missouri law. Discussions and hearings are continuing.