The amplified rhetoric of “Come and Take It” and “guns are responsible for dead kids” is indicative of a deeply divided nation regarding the gun debate. This divide runs straight through college campuses as “Campus Carry” legislation enters the realm of debate. Movements have sprouted in states like Florida, Kentucky, and West Virginia to legislate Campus Carry laws, which allow students to conceal firearms while on college campuses. As expected, the divide on Campus Carry mimics the wider 2nd Amendment schism in culture at large.
The American Educational Research Association published a study finding, not surprisingly, professors to be widely opposed to armed students in their classrooms. 71% agreed or strongly agreed that Campus Carry legislation “will have a negative impact on the free and robust exchange of ideas at the university.” Over half of the respondents indicated that having armed students in their classroom would alter the way they teach certain subjects, specifically those that are controversial.
This opposition is not limited solely to the professors as the administrations of many universities have also railed against Campus Carry. As an example, the scientifically-proven greatest university on the planet West Virginia University opposed Campus Carry legislation, falling short of its gun-toting mascot’s legacy. What many may not know is that carrying on campus is generally legal in the state of West Virginia; however it is up to each individual university to allow or disallow students to be armed. This is also the case in 23 of the 50 states with only 16 states banning Campus Carry outright.
Where does this leave the students to whom this legislation would primarily apply? For many students, like outspoken Campus Carry champion Antonia Okafor, having a gun on their person while on campus gives them a greater feeling of control over their surroundings. Their walk to class, they argue, is no different than a walk downtown, that their campus contains the same dangerous alleys and dark corners that a busy city would; having a gun would ultimately make them feel safer.
This sentiment is supported by the numbers. In a 2015 Gallup poll, 18-to-29-year-olds championed concealed carry as 66% of respondents in this demographic agreed with the statement, “suppose more Americans were allowed to conceal carry if they passed a criminal background check and a training course. If more Americans were allowed to carry concealed weapons, [the United States would be safer].” This same demographic showed the least support for an assault weapons ban at only 49% support in a 2015 Pew survey. Considering the trend of young people leaning left, these results are surprising—that a left-leaning group could be so pro-gun. The data seems to suggest that young people are a particularly pro-gun demographic compared to other age groups, meaning Campus Carry pits student against teacher.
So far, we have administrators and professors standing in staunch opposition to Campus Carry opposing a student demographic that leans towards concealed carry. This split among other reasons—lobbying, getting out the vote, etc—causes the gridlock that has left many states to argue for years about its validity with no movement in one direction or the other.
Legislators do have the ability to break the stalemate, however, as is the case in Utah. Laws named university and college campuses as locations in which carrying a concealed weapon cannot be barred. While many states have preemptively banned Campus Carry, Utah remains the only state in which the prohibiting of Campus Carry is banned.
All of this is to say that Americans are deeply divided on guns. College campuses are not free from division on this contentious topic and serve as a microcosm of the greater gun debate. As Antonia Okafor argues, “we are upstanding citizens who just want to protect ourselves on campus, as we already do when we go off campus.” The arguments are the same in both spheres. With Americans running to extremes on the 2nd Amendment, one begins to wonder if a middle ground even exists, or if it is simply a void damning people to choose a side on both college campuses and the culture at large.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.