Oklahoma college students are 20 paces apart in their views about guns on campus, with much of the battle taking place on student-oriented Web sites like Facebook. Nearly 500 people have joined the Facebook site Students Against Guns on Campus, started by Oklahoma State University students. One of them, Matt Beier, said allowing concealed weapons would make it harder to tell the "good students from the bad” because now any weapon raises an alarm. He said police would find it hard to know which students are a threat and which are protecting themselves. "I don't think the way we solve the problem is by giving people more guns,” Beier said. House Bill 2513, as amended last week, would allow weapons on campus if carried by active-duty military and National Guard and Reserve members, honorably discharged veterans, and those with at least 72 hours firearms training certified by the Council on Law Enforcement Education. The House measure, which also requires a state concealed weapons license, is now before the state Senate. Beier worries that some military members returning from war zones may not be psychologically stable. "In no way am I trying to come off as a crazy liberal insulting soldiers,” he said. "I have friends who went to Iraq and fought in the war. But the number of people coming back from Iraq with mental illness is increasing.” Dustin Gaunder, another OSU student, disagrees that guns would be bad on campus. He created the 81-member Facebook page Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. "There is no such thing as a gun-free campus,” Gaunder said. "The only people who will have guns are the ones who will do bad things with them.” Gaunder supports the original version of House Bill 2513, which allowed any person with a concealed weapon license to carry guns on public campuses. He said CLEET training takes many weeks and is too expensive for most students. Gaunder and some other OSU students say they'll join a national demonstration during the week of April 21 and wear empty holsters to class to show their support for concealed weapons. The gun bill has been opposed by Glen Johnson, chancellor of the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, and many university presidents, including UCO President Roger Webb, a former state director of public safety. "There's no place for guns in classrooms and laboratories,” Webb said. "I know that the proponents are well-intended, but I fear an unintended consequence. If it passes, Oklahoma colleges could become the most dangerous in the nation.” But Miles E. Hall, president of H&H Gun Range, said he favors the bill because so-called gun-free zones are a signal for criminals that they can't easily be stopped. Miles said that while he is supportive of campus police, there are "simply too few to make an impact on the deranged mind of a killer.” Security at Rose State College in Midwest City has been contracted through a private company with unarmed employees. But administrators are considering changing to a force with armed CLEET-certified officers, said Keith Ogans, vice president for business affairs. But others should not be allowed to bring weapons to campus, he said. "When it comes to bringing concealed weapons onto college campus or other social arenas where there's a large gathering of people, it can become very difficult to discern the good guys from bad guys. You create more chaos and bring about disorder.” Bob Miller is chairman of the OSU Faculty Council, which sent a letter to lawmakers last week voicing opposition to any concealed guns on campus. He said he has known four professors, all out of state, who were murdered in their campus offices by students in the past 30 years. Miller also fears accidental discharge of weapons and said a law allowing guns on campus would make faculty and student recruiting more difficult.
What students say•Kari Wint, a student at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha, said the issue was discussed at a recent state meeting of student government associations: "It was a pretty heated debate. Some people were very adamant in their support and others felt just as strongly against it. Personally I know that I would not feel safe knowing any one of my classmates could have a weapon on them at any time.” •OU student Jared Pitts: "I'm definitely not in support of it. If you allow a gun, it makes it tempting to bring to class. If a person has a conceal-and-carry license, that might be another story, but I would be nervous if I knew people had guns in class.” •OU student Matt Peters: "I personally would feel safer if I had it on me, so if anybody decided to do something stupid, I'm able to protect myself and the people around me.” Contributing: Staff Writers Bryan Painter and James S. Tyree
U.S. Supreme Court to hear gun-ban case•At issue: A Washington handgun ban. •At stake: Whether the Constitution protects an individual's right to own guns. Page 10A