Open Carry for Students on Campus is a Bad Idea 

A group of Tennessee Republican lawmakers wants to allow college students to carry guns on campus.

This is a bad idea for so many reasons. Since 2017, state law has allowed certain employees of public colleges and universities to carry firearms on campus, which, in and of itself, was a precarious move. But now, to allow gun-toting students to populate college campuses introduces a gamut of unnecessary risks.

The bill (SB 2288/ HB 2102) would amend Tennessee's current law, which allows full-time employees with permits to carry a concealed firearm on public campuses, to include students. The legislation is sponsored in the House by Representatives Rush Bricken and Bruce Griffey and in the Senate by Senator Janice Bowling.

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Tennessee is one of 10 states that currently allow the carrying of concealed weapons on campuses in some way.

Instead of going further down the path of arming folks on college campuses, Tennessee should be working to remove all guns from campuses — except of course those carried by professionally trained law enforcement officers. The Second Amendment gives people the right to bear arms, but there has to be a reasonable limit to where people are allowed to do that.

The National Rifle Association began lobbying lawmakers to allow guns on campuses in 2008 after mass shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University that resulted in a total of 37 deaths. The group's argument largely revolves around the "good guy with a gun" stepping in to stop the "bad guy with a gun" scenario.

Here is a snippet from some NRA literature on the matter: "Reality is quite simple — a good guy or woman with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun, but they cannot stop the bad guy if they lack the ability to legally possess a gun for self-defense. In a classroom of disarmed, law-abiding citizens, the criminal with a gun is king."

But common sense says that adding more guns to the mix is not the solution but instead a key ingredient in a potentially dangerous cocktail. Research from universities and higher education boards across the country suggests that allowing students to carry guns on campus could have more adverse than positive effects.

For example, the Houston Community College Board of Trustees urged lawmakers to vote against the bill allowing concealed firearms on campus because of the possible increase in liability insurance cost, which they estimated could be between $780,000 and $900,000 per year.

Beyond the financial implications this could have for colleges and universities, there are a number of other reasons why such legislation is a step in an unsafe direction.

Everyone knows that college students are one of the most vulnerable, ever-changing, and emotionally complex populations there is. College is hard. It can be a trying, confusing, lonely, and sleepless time for many. And even if that is not the case for some, all college students are in the process of growing and maturing. Science tells us that the frontal lobe — the part of the brain responsible for rational decision making — is not fully developed until the age of 25. Someone who is not fully capable of making rational decisions should not be allowed to carry a gun in the presence of so many others.

We also know that drug and alcohol use is commonplace for many college-aged students. Drugs, alcohol, and firearms just don't mix.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are rampant on college campuses, according to the American Psychological Association. These issues can, in some cases, put students at risk for suicide, which the CDC cites as the third-leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24. Just last year, the center noted that young adults were dying at record rates from suicide. The rate increased by 56 percent from 2007 to 2017. The CDC reports that the likelihood of suicide increases by three times with access to firearms. Three times.

So why would any sane person want to allow students to freely carry deadly weapons on campuses?

We don't need more guns on campus. We need fewer. Fewer guns mean fewer chances for people to get shot. It's that simple. If lawmakers truly care about the livelihood of their young constituents, they would reconsider this move before it's too late.

Maya Smith is a Flyer staff writer.

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