Lantern file photo
Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee doesn’t approve of guns on campus, and he’s made it clear he won’t be changing his mind.
“Not as long as I’m president. I am totally, unequivocally opposed,” said Gee in a Sept. 10 interview with The Lantern. “I want to be very clear about that. I think that is a horrible idea on a university campus for people to be carrying guns. Period.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, Ohio is one of 21 states that bans carrying a concealed weapon on any college campus. OSU currently has a policy that prohibits individuals from carrying guns on campus, a prohibition one student group thinks violates Second Amendment rights and plans to fight the university with a lawsuit on the issue.
In an email to The Lantern, OSU Police Chief Paul Denton stressed the police’s respect for constitutional rights but also highlighted the reason behind the campus rule.
“The fact is that under current Ohio law, concealed carry license holders are limited or prohibited from carrying concealed handguns in numerous locations, among which are churches, synagogues, mosques, child day care centers, buildings owned or leased by Ohio or its political subdivisions, colleges and universities,” Denton said in the email.
Gee’s firm stance on the issue is reflected by some other Ohio universities and their own policies.
“Knowing that one can make very persuasive arguments on both sides of the guns on campus issue, my stance is consistent with President Gee in that I feel the campus is a safer place with restrictions on guns on campus in place,” said Director and Chief of Police of the University of Toledo police department Jeff Newton in an email.
Newton said he isn’t concerned that citizens who qualify for carrying a concealed weapon pose a threat, but he’s worried about gun security overall.
“Theft is the most pervasive crime on campus and the density of people in a campus environment and residence halls make combating theft uniquely difficult,” Newton said. “A certain amount of guns will definitely fall into the wrong hands.”
University of Cincinnati Police Chief Michael Cureton said “the likelihood of more accidents on campus would increase dramatically as you bring more guns on campus.”
“You can’t determine who has a gun, what their qualifications are, what training they may have had, what the quality of the gun is and what kind of circumstances that surround an incident that involves a gun,” Denton said. “There’s just too many variables that could go wrong in an everyday setting.”
Other concerns among officials from other Ohio universities include knowing who the attacker is and who the victim is if guns are allowed on campus.
“If there is a threat on campus, I would also be concerned with police officers distinguishing between the threat and the persons defending themselves,” Newton said.
However, some schools that allow concealed carry on campuses by law have not had any problems with the policy. Among those schools is Utah State University, where guns are permitted by state law.
“We know there are students and faculty and staff that are carrying (a concealed weapon), but to this point it has not been an issue for us,” said Chief Steven Mecham of the USU Police Department.
According to the Utah State Legislature, “unless specifically authorized by the Legislature by statute, a local authority or state entity may not enact, establish or enforce any ordinance, regulation, rule or policy pertaining to firearms that in any way inhibits or restricts the possession or use of firearms on either public or private property.”
The law, which was renumbered and amended in 2008, also states “‘local authority or state entity’ includes public school districts, public schools and state institutions of higher education.”
Mecham said the only initial concern when the law was passed involved faculty concerns if students came to their offices with a firearm, but those concerns “just kind of went away.”
According to the NCSL website, in 24 states the decision to ban or allow concealed carry weapons on campuses is made by each college within those states individually. Five states – Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin – have provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses due to recent state legislation and court rulings.
Joe Smith, president of the OSU student group Buckeyes for Concealed Carry, said allowing concealed carry on campus is important because you “have the ability to defend yourself and keep yourself from being a statistic of violent crime.”
Smith also said the victim of a violent attack, who might be smaller or not as physically built as the attacker, “equalizes the playing field by having a firearm,” and can overpower the attacker if they don’t have a firearm.
Other students, however, have had conflicting opinions on the issue.
Matt Troyer, a fourth-year in history, said he has always felt concealed carry is a good thing, but as far as allowing it on campus, it’s more of a “tricky conversation.”
“I would have to see a good argument for it,” Troyer said.
Josh Haug, a first-year in actuarial science, said he wouldn’t feel comfortable if guns were allowed on campus.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a great idea (to allow guns on campus),” Haug said. “I personally would be really scared with that because I know there’s been a lot of crimes and hate crimes on campus. Some of them can be quite violent and if weapons were allowed to be concealed, I couldn’t trust anybody with that.”
According to the Ohio Students for Concealed Carry website, the group is planning to sue OSU, but it couldn’t say specifically when because the timing is dependent on funding.