Now that we've had two legislative forums that were dominated by concerns over concealed carry on college campuses in Arkansas, I have a better sense of the community's goals and the methods suggested to accomplish them.
Having attended both of the forums in Fayetteville and at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, and having spoken at both of them, I am more convinced than ever that allowing properly licensed faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons on campus will not accomplish our goal of providing a safe campus for all of us.
Public safety is our main concern, and currently there is no statistical evidence that suggests concealed carry will increase our public safety.
In fact, it suggests exactly the opposite. Here's why.
1) The most recent research shows that those who carry concealed weapons, whether legally or not, are far more likely to suffer catastrophic injury or death during an armed assault than those who are not carrying. You can read the results of this study here.
These are extraordinary results, and they have not been addressed by the supporters of the current version of HB 1243.
The unavoidable conclusion is that allowing concealed carry on our campuses will increase the likelihood of gun-violence.
2) I also learned at these forums that some of those who support this Bill believe it is simply a matter of choice. Allow those faculty and staff, the argument goes, who feel threatened, or who want to protect themselves and their students from attack, to carry concealed weapons. If you don't want to carry, then you certainly are not required to do so.
Simple and fair, right?
No. I strongly support the Second Amendment, but I also recognize that all of our Constitutional rights articulated in the Bill of Rights traditionally have had limitations placed on them. This is a matter of constitutional history.
In the case of concealed carry, the study mentioned above shows that allowing individuals to carry concealed weapons would actually threaten the public safety of those on our campuses.
And our right to public safety trumps our right to carry a concealed weapon, when carrying that weapon can be shown to decrease that public safety.
So, the prohibition of weapons on our campuses is not an infringement of our rights—it is an affirmation of our public safety.
3) Every law enforcement official that I have asked, as well as the military personnel I've consulted, and who have sought me out, have agreed that the one-day training session (less than a full day, actually) required of those who would apply for a concealed carry license is sadly and tragically insufficient, to say the least. Time on the target range amounts to a few hours, at most, and the target range is a closed environment with a stationary target positioned a few feet in front of the applicant's face. After completing this session, and passing a background check, applicants will have the ability to carry a deadly weapon and respond to a perceived threat on our campuses by discharging a weapon they have only a minimal proficiency with. And remember, these are the very campuses that are full of our students, our children, our parents, our faculty, and our staff.
Conclusion? Concealed carry licenses, in fact, can be seen to be a direct deterrent to our public safety, and that is our common goal—to achieve public safety.
Some of the Bill's supporters, while recognizing the inadequacy of this training, have suggested that our universities offer further training in weapons and self-defense. Two questions put this to rest: Who will pay for this? And should universities properly be in the firearms-training business? The answer to both is no.
Furthermore: Why would we support legislation that is admittedly flawed and look to our public institutions to address its problems after it has passed? It doesn't make sense.
4) The simple solution to securing our public safety is to hire professionals to do this, and not to trust this job to amatuers: our very own UAPD has presided over one of the safest campuses in the country, and I would suggest that as our concern grows, so too should our budget for their services. When you look at the numbers regarding college and university violence in Arkansas and the country, it is little short of amazing. Briefly—the observed Arkansas college and university murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate is 56,700 times LOWER than that for the public-at-large and 72 times LOWER than that at other U.S. colleges and universities.
Colleges and universities in the United States are among the SAFEST refuges from murder and non-negligent manslaughter in America, and Arkansas colleges and universities are among the SAFEST in our country! To learn more about these important statistics, click here.
Introducing weapons to this environment stands only to imperil the safety and security that our police and security forces have been so successful in establishing—we now have evidence that show this (see point 1).
If we are concerned about the public safety of our campuses, and I believe that we all are, then it only makes sense to do the research necessary to make a wise decision. The numbers here are, in my opinion, very convincing.
I believe that HB 1243 will not secure our campus, and will, in fact, ultimately weaken its security. I have come to this conclusion by listening to those who have worked with firearms for years or who have studied the complicated subject of societal violence in depth, and these are their conclusions. I fully support them.
For more information and studies related to this subject, please consult our Facebook page, Arkansans against Guns on Campus.
It is still not too late to sign our petition and tell others about it. I have a Twitter acount now that is dedicated to this and other matters like this. Follow me here @SidBurris.
The petition is here.