The Wisconsin State Legislature passed Act 35 this past summer, allowing weapons to be carried in the state concealed from public view. This is a major shift for Wisconsin, as prior to Act 35, the state had open-carry, but the right to carry a weapon in plain view was rarely exercised. This is a step forward for Wisconsin as we now join forty-eight other states with concealed-carry laws, leaving Illinois as the only state not having such a law. However, the debate for us is not about concealed carry – it is about concealed carry on Marquette’s campus. In this instance, I think that Marquette has made a good decision to bar weapons from being carried on campus.
At the recent student forum, Fr. Pilarz stated that what it comes down to is following the law, and this is exactly what Marquette is going to do. The policy states that employees, students, guests and contractors are not permitted to “carry any weapons on university property except as expressly permitted by applicable State law; openly carry any weapons on university property; carry any weapons in any university building or leased space or at any university special event marked with signage specifying ‘Weapons are prohibited in this building.’” This policy applies to all weapons, not just firearms. To the extent possible within the law, Marquette will be banning weapons on campus.
What necessitates this change? We’ve gotten by fine without weapons before Act 35. Why, now that we have a concealed carry law in Wisconsin, is everyone enthusiastic about the right to carry a concealed weapon? Nothing on Marquette’s campus magically changed on November first when the law took effect to increase the desire to pack heat. Dozens of colleges have banned weapons on campus in states that have concealed carry laws. According to a compilation of college campus shootings by Google, approximately twenty-two shootings have occurred since 1990 – that’s approximately one shooting per year. There is not an epidemic of college shootings that arming students would prevent. The infrequency of college shootings and the insignificant effect armed students have during school shootings clearly show that current bans are not detrimental to the safety of college campuses.
Life on college campuses often involves some drug use and alcohol consumption that could impair the judgment of a law-abiding gun owner. The Harvard School of Public Health conducted a study that found that those with alcohol problems are more likely to have firearms with them at school. “These alcohol-related behaviors suggest that college gun owners are more likely than those who do not own guns to engage in activities that put themselves and others at risk for severe or life-threatening injuries. Damaging property when intoxicated suggests an inability to contain aggressive impulses.” The logical connection between drinking impairing judgment and shortening tempers and gun ownership should be clear: the two do not mix. This negative connectivity should be recognized. Although there are provisions in Act 35 to prevent the sale of alcohol to people that are believed to possess a firearm, it’s called concealed carry for a reason; even the most astute bartender might oversee a hidden weapon.
Furthermore, the Wisconsin law has provisions that require the obtainer of a permit to be at least 21 years old. With only about a third of the student body eligible to obtain permits (and not all would bring a weapon to campus even if permitted), how could a policy that would allow students to carry weapons be effective? This is just another practical reason that shows that having weapons on campus would not improve the safety of the campus in any substantial way.
Ultimately, allowing weapons on campus is a Pandora’s Box. DPS should devote its time to more important issues. Weapons have been banned on dozens of college campuses for years and the infrequency of situations where carrying weapons could prove useful are few and far between. This is common sense: guns and school don’t mix and never have.
by Evan Umpir