By Lindsey Reiser, ABC News
Guns on campus: not everyone wants it, but in Arizona it might just become a reality.
Most universities do not allow students or faculty with concealed carry permits to bring a weapon to school, but a bill is currently moving through the state senate that would allow faculty to do just that. Currently, only certified police officers are permitted to carry a weapon on school grounds in Arizona.
State Senator Jack Harper of Phoenix is the primary sponsor of this bill, and this legislative session is not the first time that it has been introduced.
Daniel Crocker, Southwest Regional Director for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, said that while he believes this legislation should extend to students, the current bill is a move in the right direction. “Any step toward allowing the people the right to self defense is a good thing,” Crocker said. “We’re going to embrace anything that extends that right.”
At 44,000 members, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is one of the largest student rights groups in the country. They advocate that trained, licensed, and law-abiding adults who carry a firearm to protect themselves should also have the right to do so on college campuses.
But not everyone is in support of its cause. The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, which began a little over a year ago, has created a list of over 100 public schools in 23 states agreeing to oppose legislation that would allow guns on campuses. Andy Pelosi, director of the campaign, says this particular bill is a bad idea.
“Campuses are pretty safe places already; I think introducing guns is only going to make them less safe,” Pelosi said. “We think more guns are going to create more problems.”
Many argue that allowing guns on campus would give students and faculty a chance to defend themselves if a violent situation were to erupt. Some people cite the tragedy at Virginia Tech as an example of a situation that could have ended differently if professors and/or students had the right to bear arms on campus. And last year, at Arizona State University, a male graduate student pulled out a gun in his professor’s office and then shot himself.
But media law professor Joseph Russomanno said that he doesn’t believe that allowing professors to carry concealed weapons would make a campus safer.
“I have never been one who believes that the presence of weaponry, particularly loaded guns, can help diffuse a situation,” Russomanno said. “My view, in fact, is really the opposite, in that it is likely to make the situation worse — to throw gasoline on the fire, so to speak.”
Students in Arizona have mixed reactions. Jon Nield, 23, an aviation management graduate student at Arizona State University, said that if professors find the need for protection for any reason, they should be able to carry a gun on campus.
“I do believe that every person has the right to protect their most basic right of life,” Nield said. “As a CCW [concealed carry] permit holder, I wholeheartedly embrace this bill as an opportunity to protect myself and my peers.”
But Carolyn Basalla, 22, a graduate from the University of Arizona, said that she thinks professors should be allowed to bring guns to school if students can’t.
“If professors, one group of adults, are granted the right to carry weapons on university grounds, then the same right must be extended to any other group or classification of adults on the same campuses, like students,” Basalla said.
Currently, the state of Utah allows any person with a concealed carry license to have the weapon on college campuses. Blue Ridge Community College in Virginia and Colorado State University also allow concealed carry on their campuses.