Op-Ed

Unsafe, unfair to ban concealed carry on Ky. college campuses

David Burnett
David Burnett

For years, Kentucky law has acknowledged that carrying a concealed firearm for self-defense is both a right and a need.

The law requires a minimum age of 21, state and federal background checks, a gun safety class, a written test and live-fire competency. Thus we can safely conclude this process primarily certifies responsible and mature adults educated on use of force and basic principles of firearm safety, while weeding out felons, criminals and those with mental illness.

There are certain exceptions to this law, generally areas which are avoidable (bars), protected (courthouses and police stations) or of a particular danger which outweighs individual needs (sterile zones of airports or prisons).

State-funded universities fit none of these criteria, and yet have carved out arbitrary exemptions for themselves under the implausible notion that anyone who crosses an invisible campus boundary poses no danger to students.

Bills filed by Reps. Tim Moore and Jim DuPlessis are proposing new tools to enhance school and college safety. One would offer an option to train and arm school marshals. The other would remove prohibitions on concealed carry for public postsecondary institutions. These bills don’t alter the permit process — they merely assure exemptions for K-12 schools and equitable application of the law for colleges.

Having earned two degrees in nine years at the University of Kentucky, I’m all too aware there’s nothing stopping someone from walking onto campus with a gun.

The campus ban isn’t enforced by any practical means, but by signs and stickers instead — as though stickers could stop psychopaths. Instead they empower psychopaths by guaranteeing victims are defenseless, cultivating a deadly delusion that murderous criminals will comply.

Indeed, armed self-defense is the only outcome effectively prevented by college policy.

Common arguments against this idea include claims that students are too irresponsible, drunk or volatile (a curious departure from standard recruitment and donation plugs), that permit-holders would only make things worse, or that the police are enough. Of course we have police, but they are already thinly spread, can’t be in every classroom and can’t frisk everyone on campus.

According to FBI research, the majority of rampage killings end before police can arrive. In fact, of 160 shootings studied, unarmed bystanders intervened in 13 percent of them, with another 3 percent prevented by armed civilians.

Claims that violence will escalate have been proven untrue, as campus carry laws have passed in nine states already with virtually zero incidents resulting. That’s because the law only applies to current permit holders who already carry safely in other locations. On a campus, that would mean ROTC cadets, trusted professors, grad students and veterans.

Laws are supposed to favor the law-abiding, yet criminalizing meaningful protection for a combat veteran using his GI bill after manning heavy artillery in war zones, or a graduate student returning to her apartment late at night favors the predator, not the victim.

Unfortunately, the next college massacre is a question of when, not if. There are a variety of solutions available for solving campus violence, none of them invalid. What is clear: The status quo isn’t working. Criminals don’t ask for permission, nor are unenforceable gun bans the only thing standing between us and mass anarchy.

Ultimately, the individual is responsible for his or her safety and state law rather than campus policy guarantees this right. Until such time as colleges can guarantee the safety of their students, they must not be exempt from the law nor penalize responsible citizens from protecting themselves on campus.

David Burnett of Lexington is former president of Students for Concealed Carry and an alumnus of the University of Kentucky College of Nursing, and Gatton College of Business & Economics.

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