Keep concealed weapons off Michigan college campuses

If a posse of pistol-packing state senators gets its way, peace and tranquility on Michigan’s college campuses could soon be enforced from the barrel of a smoking handgun – and a legally concealed one at that.

Senate Bill 747 would remove the current legal restriction against gun owners with concealed pistol licenses (CPLs) from hauling their hidden heat through the halls of our state’s colleges and universities.

Current Michigan law not only prohibits those with CPLs from carrying concealed pistols on college campuses, it also bans handgun owners from bringing their weapons into the state’s primary schools, day care centers, stadiums, bars, churches and hospitals.

The proposal, introduced in August to the Michigan Senate by Republican Sen. Randy Richardville, is sponsored by six Republicans and one Democrat and is currently being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“Crimes occur on college campuses just like any other place,” said Richardville in a recent policy statement published on his Web site.

“Students, faculty and visitors, who have permits and have undergone the proper training and background checks, should have the right to carry a concealed weapon for their protection while on campus,” Richardson added.

Opponents of the plan, like Michael Boulus, Executive Director of the Presidents Council of Michigan’s 15 public universities, insist legalizing guns on campus will not make colleges safer places to live and learn, but instead will make them more dangerous.

“If you allow concealed weapons on campuses,” Boulus said in a recent interview on WJR radio, “unfortunately, it does not stop tragedies like Virginia Tech – but it might allow for a gunfight to occur.”

The Virginia Tech tragedy referred to by Boulus represents an extreme example of guns on campus, and is more often cited by supporters of Senate Bill 747 than by its detractors.

Richardville’s Web site statement also relays backing for his bill from the National Rifle Association, and cites support from Steven W. Dulan, a member of the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners, a gun-rights lobbying organization in Lansing.

“Tragedies such as the Virginia Tech massacre prove beyond all doubt that murderers do not honor so-called ‘pistol free zones,’ Dulan is quoted as saying. “Only law-abiding citizens are disarmed by such rules.

Yet most similar recent legislative efforts to arm students and teachers across the country have been defeated. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “states may be nearing something resembling a national consensus: Guns don’t belong on college campuses.”

When considering a proposal to legalize handguns for teachers last September, a columnist for The Eastern Echo, Elizabeth Smith, estimated two-fifths of school shootings in the last decade “could possibly have been prevented or reduced if the students knew that teachers would have been able to fight back.”

“Forty percent could save dozens of lives,” Smith suggested, “especially given the rising number of school shootings.” Gun crimes on campuses have occurred more frequently since the mid-1990s, according to the U.S. News & World Report time line Smith cited.

And the question is not whether Michigan’s college students and instructors can trust those with “concealed carry weapons” (CCW) permits to safely carry firearms on campus, since the records of most legal gun owners are excellent.

Rigorous state and federal restrictions on CCW license holders regulate the age, residency, training, criminal records, and mental health histories of applicants. There’s even a state provision denying a CCW permit to anyone convicted of “malicious use of telephones” during the three years prior to their application.

But if Michigan students and instructors get used to seeing pistols poking out of each other’s belts, it will become much easier for anyone to carry on campus. That’s the problem.

Legalizing concealed weapons at colleges and universities may seem like a good idea to many licensed handgun owners, but it would be impossible for school administrators and law enforcement to ensure everyone on campus who carried a handgun was licensed to do so.

It’s true that life is full of danger, but I believe all Michigan college students should continue to share the risk of living and learning on gun-free campuses. It beats having to wonder if everyone whose packing a pistol has got a permit to go with it.

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