Photo illustration by Danielle Hyams
Thomas Sadens takes an extra step when getting ready to leave his house; he must make sure his pistol is properly holstered and concealed across his chest or waist.
But because of Ohio’s ban against concealed weapons on campuses, Sadens must leave his gun at home when he comes to campus. And many people, including OSU’s police chief, want it to stay that way.
About 250,000 Ohioans have received a license to carry concealed weapons since 2004, according to a March press release from the attorney general’s website.
Sadens, who graduated from OSU after Autumn Quarter with a degree in biochemistry and is starting medical school at OSU this summer, must first return home and drop off his weapon if he plans to go to campus.
“I take what I do very seriously,” Sadens said. “I always want to know that I am capable of protecting myself.”
Ohio law states that any person age 21 or older is eligible to apply for a concealed carry license. To obtain such a license, one must first undergo training and an extensive background check.
Those with felonies, misdemeanors and any history of mental illness will be disqualified. The law also states those with a license are forbidden to carry their weapons on any premise that a public or private college, university or other institution of higher education owns.
According to concealedcampus.org, there are 15 states that allow individual colleges and universities to make their own concealed carry ruling. At this time, Utah is the only state that allows concealed carry at all public colleges and universities. Many states, including Nevada, Illinois and Michigan, have recently introduced legislation that would allow concealed weapons on their college campuses. Earlier this month, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that would have allowed guns on the campuses of public universities in the state.
Many believe the gun ban leaves students vulnerable.
“(College campuses) are a very easy mark for the criminal because they generally know there is no one there who can defend themselves,” said Linda Walker, Central Ohio Chair of Buckeye Firearms Association.
Greg Horn, OSU’s director of the grassroots organization Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, said allowing students to arm themselves on campus will diminish crime.
“I think overall that by allowing students to carry guns that it would decrease crime,” Horn said. “The nature of criminals plays a part in it. A criminal knows if they rob you on campus there is no chance that you can defend yourself if they have a gun. If you allow students to carry guns (the criminals) will no longer be certain that they are unarmed.”
David Hoffman, a fourth-year in history, has had his concealed carry license for almost two years.
“I would like to be able to carry (my gun) on campus. I carry it everywhere else I go,” Hoffman said. “I have left the library at 2 a.m. when nobody is there. I would feel better if I could protect myself.”
But many people oppose the idea of mixing guns and college students.
“This is an age where there are a lot of things going on on campus. There is drinking, bad grades and failed love affairs that people are trying to cope with,” said Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. “To add guns to the mix is increasing everybody’s risk of everything.”
School shootings such as the massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007, which left 32 dead, and at Northern Illinois University in 2008 when six were killed, are often referenced in pro- and anti-gun arguments.
Hoover rebukes the idea that guns could make campuses a safer place.
“If you’re sitting in a class and somebody comes in and starts shooting and five people in the room are carrying and they all pull their guns, how do you know who is with the shooter and who is not?” Hoover said. “You don’t know what’s going on, and then you have people shooting at one another all over the place.”
Campus security shares that sentiment.
“We disagree that it would add protection,” said OSU Police Chief Paul Denton, who is the official spokesperson for the university on this matter. “In the event of a hostile shooter, having other armed individuals will only complicate what’s already a confusing and difficult situation. Our police officers will face the additional problem of identifying who is a friend and a foe, and that places themselves and others at a greater risk.”
Joshua Luster, a fourth-year in security and intelligence, said he is indifferent toward the issue, but feels as though campus security is adequate.
“I really don’t care, people have the right to bear arms,” said Luster. “I don’t really see the need though, I think that campus security does a pretty good job.”