BAD ideas live forever at the state Capitol. Such is the case with renewed interest in allowing concealed weapons on Oklahoma’s college campuses.
Higher education leaders have vehemently and consistently opposed this idea. So has The Oklahoman. Far be it from lawmakers to take no for an answer.
Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, Sen. Ralph Shortey, R-Oklahoma City, and Sen. AJ Griffin, R-Guthrie, are leading an interim study on the issue. They say the state needs to look at “the facts” and at best practices for allowing concealed weapons on campus. We can’t help but wonder why the fact that the higher education community is united in its opposition to this idea is completely ignored.
“Placing guns on campus, except in the hands of highly trained law enforcement officers and professionals, would be a serious mistake and would lead only to tragic results,” University of Oklahoma President David Boren said recently. “To put our university students, faculty and staff at risk in this way makes absolutely no sense.”
We suggest Griffin follow her own advice about dealing in facts rather than fear when it comes to concealed weapons on campus. College campuses aren’t inherently dangerous places. Much of the danger that does exist links to the fact that young adults enjoying newfound freedom don’t always make wise choices.
Campus safety is an important issue for families of college students. But trying to scare people into believing college campuses are dangerous places in need of armed faculty and students is disingenuous. Even living in a gun-loving state such as Oklahoma, we seriously doubt that the idea of allowing concealed weapons permit holders to bring their weapons on campus would bring families much peace. In fact, we suspect it would do the opposite.
As we’ve noted many times before, if campus security or police officers are faced with a gunman on campus, they shouldn’t have to worry about whether the gunman is the good guy or the bad guy. As recently as April, the state’s higher education campus safety and security task force passed a resolution opposing any changes with regard to the current ban on concealed weapons on campus.
As for the idea that Oklahoma needs to look at best practices, we can get on board with that. The vast majority of college campuses in the United States are gun-free zones. Only seven states allow concealed weapons on higher education campuses. To act as though Oklahoma needs to catch up with its counterparts across the nation is a weak argument.
Like so many ideas that emanate perennially from the state Capitol, this one is a waste of time and energy. If lawmakers are genuinely worried about campus safety, they could turn their attention to truly preventive campus safety efforts, making sure schools have adequately staffed campus security operations. They could support the expansion of mental health services on campuses.
The fact is, there’s inadequate evidence to justify such a drastic change for the state’s higher education campuses. Unfortunately, that’s often not enough to sway determined and well meaning but misguided lawmakers. Higher education can’t let its guard down on this issue.
It won’t be put to rest any time soon.