This month, college students across the country receive their final grades for the fall semester. It’s also time to assign a grade for a project that has quietly been succeeding in multiple states – concealed carry on college campuses.
This past summer in my home State of Kansas, a law went into effect allowing college students on campuses to carry concealed firearms. In order to qualify, students must be 21 years of age or older. Kansas is a “constitutional carry” State, so no concealed carry permit is necessary. Foreign nationals on student visas are not permitted to carry.
Before Kansas allowed concealed carry on campus, college students were sitting ducks. Not only were they vulnerable to attack as they walked across campus at night, they were vulnerable to mass shootings in classes – defenseless in tightly-packed environments. This was demonstrated horrifically ten years ago when the Virginia Tech killer, Seung-Hui Cho, shot and killed 32 students and faculty. Another 17 were wounded. It is likely that far fewer would have been killed if students and faculty had been permitted to defend themselves with concealed firearms.
At the time, I was a law professor at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. The Virginia Tech incident caused me to assess my own security situation, and it wasn’t a positive assessment. I was teaching classes in lecture halls with only two inconvenient exits, keenly aware that my students and I would be unable to escape or defend ourselves if a similar incident occurred. If it had been allowed, I would have carried a concealed firearm to protect my students.
But most professors aren’t familiar with firearms; and they recite the standard liberal drivel when asked about the issue. When the Kansas campus carry law was enacted, and in the run-up to its implementation, liberal professors claimed that it would make campuses more dangerous. They speculated that college parties would turn into gun fights and campus disagreements would end with guns drawn.
One Kansas University professor even protested the law by wearing a bullet-proof vest over his clothing. The professor who engaged in such theatrics, Kevin Willmott, teaches film and media studies (appropriately enough). He declared that the presence of concealed guns would somehow inhibit classroom discussions of controversial topics. “As a whole, it just puts a damper on free speech for everyone,” he said. Of course college discussions continued unabated.
Another KU professor came up with an equally ridiculous argument. Engineering professor Ron Barrett-Gonzalez complained to a legislative committee that if concealed firearms were allowed in university classrooms, foreign governments would issue travel warnings cautioning their students against studying in Kansas. He predicted that foreign governments would label Kansas an “out-of-control, lawless frontier” where foreign students and travelers would be at great risk. Of course, none of this occurred; and the many foreign students in Kansas continue their studies.
And the law didn’t produce any campus violence either. Instead, all was quiet on the nearly sixty university and community college campuses across the Sunflower State this past semester. But more importantly, thousands of students were safer walking alone at night – including those who weren’t carrying. Would-be attackers were deterred by the possibility that their intended victims might be armed.
And Kansas is not alone. Nine other states – Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin – now permit concealed carry on their college campuses. Another state, Tennessee, allows licensed faculty, but not students, to concealed carry. The other thirty-nine states either prohibit concealed carry or leave it up to the university (which inevitably means that no guns are allowed). None of these eleven states have seen any negative consequences of allowing the concealed carrying of firearms. No shootings, no stifling of discussion, and no foreign travel advisories.
Most importantly, students and faculty are safer. It’s not so easy for criminals to prey upon college students where campus carry is allowed. The students can defend themselves against both individual assaults and mass shootings.
As a result, the campus carry project earns an A+ in all eleven states. As for the professors and their lame arguments, they earn an F. Their weak, biased reasoning speaks volumes about the poor quality of teaching in many college classrooms. But at least those classrooms are safer now.
Kris W. Kobach is the elected Secretary of State of Kansas. An expert in immigration law and policy, he coauthored the Arizona SB-1070 immigration law and represented in federal court the ten ICE agents who sued to stop Obama’s 2012 executive amnesty. In 2017 President Trump named him Vice Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity. His website is kriskobach.com.