As Ohio State continues to mourn Monday’s campus attack in which 11 students and faculty were injured, that attack is now coloring the debate around proposed legislation in the Statehouse that would allow concealed carry licensees to carry handguns in previously banned places, possibly including public universities.
House Bill 48, as it is referred to, passed in the Ohio House of Representatives a year ago, but is now working its way through Ohio’s Senate. The bill would allow concealed carry-permit holders to carry guns inside day care facilities and within certain areas of police stations and airports.
The legislation includes an “opt-in clause” for public universities, allowing institutions to independently decide whether students can carry or not. For universities that decide not to opt-in, House Bill 48 would reduce the charges of licensees carrying on campus from a felony to a misdemeanor.
University President Michael Drake is opposed to the measure.
“None of my colleagues or myself think that’s a good idea,” Drake said Wednesday morning on WOSU’s “All Sides with Ann Fisher.”
Given the anxious campus climate since the attack, some students expressed fear for the passage of this legislation. Taylor Gleeson, a first-year in public affairs and economics, testified against the bill’s passage in Wednesday’s Government Oversight and Reform Committee hearing.
After speaking to state senators, she told The Lantern that Monday’s attack helped shape her view on the issue.
“I think, especially after what happened on Monday, sitting next to someone in a class who has this type of weapon is intimidating,” Gleeson said. “I personally don’t want to have to worry if someone next to me has a gun.”
Though Gleeson is against the idea of average permit holders having expanded carrying rights, she did suggest firearms can serve a purpose in society.
“In our society, there are people who are well trained to use guns, like our police officers,” Gleeson said. “I think there are a lot of people who are able to gain access to carry permits who do not necessarily have the background to execute themselves carefully in situations (such as Monday’s).”
Members of Ohio State’s Buckeyes for Concealed Carry club naturally was on the other side of the argument, and offered their own testimony to the Government Oversight and Reform Committee. Club members said they think the bill is a step in the right direction, and testified in favor of legislators negating the campus opt-in policy.
Katelin Nealeigh, a fourth-year in electrical engineering and president of Buckeyes for Concealed Carry, said licensees should retain their right to carry their concealed firearms on college campuses too, and that the opt-in policy for colleges serves as a detriment to that right.
“Going to class, going to the library – students should not have to leave their self-defense mechanisms at home simply because they want to get a higher education. They should have the same rights off-campus that they have on-campus,” Nealeigh said.
Charles Smith, a political science professor who teaches a course on gun politics, said he can imagine a scenario where a concealed-carry holder trying to quell an active shooter situation could be mistaken as an assailant.
If an officer arrived at a scene where a permit holder was pointing a gun in the direction of the officer, Smith said things could go awry.
“(The police officer) will respond the way he’s been trained – hold center mass, squeeze the trigger until the threat stops,” Smith said.
Tarak Underiner, a third-year in marketing and the Buckeyes for Concealed Carry club’s treasurer, said the amended version the club is proposing would have made him feel safer during Monday’s incident.
“I don’t want to say (laws allowing) campus concealed carry would have made things play out any differently (on Monday). It’s hard to say that retroactively,” Underiner said. “But I would have felt more safe personally, if I had the option to carry.”
The Republican-heavy Ohio Senate is likely to move the bill in the next week, given the year’s final voting sessions are coming to a close.