Most professors against guns on college campuses

Graphic by Katherine Edwards.

Kate Murphy

After having to use his gun to protect his family at a mall parking lot in Columbus, Joe Smith is very much for allowing concealed carries everywhere — including college campuses.

“A man told me he had a gun and was going to kill me and my family,” said Smith, the president of Buckeyes For Concealed Carry On Campus. “Just pulling my firearm sent him to the ground pleading me to let him go. I don’t understand how people can be against me protecting my family like that.”

Although carrying a concealed weapon may have saved Smith’s life, 94 percent of professors across the Great Lakes states are against having concealed carries on college campuses, according to a recent study done at the University of Toledo.

James Price, co-author of the study, surveyed Kent State and 14 other colleges stretching across Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Ohio.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 21 states ban having concealed carry on campuses, including Ohio. In 23 states it is up to the college or university to decide what they feel is best for their campus. The remaining six allow it.

Eric Mansfield, executive director of media relations at Kent State, said following Ohio law is the main priority.

“Speaking for the university, we follow the state law, which is no guns allowed on campus,” Mansfield said. “And we have no proposals about the situation in front of us. So for now we will continue to follow the state law and if it changes, we will adjust accordingly.”

Christopher Banks, associate professor of political science at Kent State, strongly agrees with the 94% against having concealed weapons on university campuses.

“There are many, many reasons why I don’t want them,” Banks said. “As a professor, I would say it puts another variable into the classroom that I’m not prepared to deal with. If you have someone who is against having guns in the classroom, they might just say they’re not coming to work anymore. I don’t think I would.”

Banks has been a political science professor, specializing in constitutional law, for more than 19 years. He expresses that having guns on campus is something he has never had to deal with and is not prepared for.

“On the personal side, I respect people’s right to own and carry guns,” Banks said. “I just think it needs to be regulated carefully. But the classroom is another thing. If we have to deal with an active shooter situation, so be it. But I do not want to have to deal with wondering who does and doesn’t have a gun in my classroom.”

President Barack Obama has been making statements about new policies with gun control — some of these being universal background checks, funding for school resource officers and banning high clip ammunition. Banks agrees with the President.

“I think when you’re thinking about the competing arguments – there is a liberty to have a gun and carry them, ” Banks said. “But there is also a right for the public to be safe, and if you’re going to take the individual right of self-defense and put it over the public right to be safe in the community, I think that is the wrong balance. You have to make a compromise between the two.”

Despite the high number of university professors against concealed carry, there are student organizations popping up all over the country wishing to allow them on campuses. Among some of the local groups are Ohioans for Concealed Carry and Buckeyes for Concealed Carry.

Matt Mansell, freshman mechanical polymer engineering major from the University of Akron, recently formed his own group – Zips for Concealed Carry.

“I was raised in a very grassroots country home where guns were just a way of life,” said Mansell. “I grew up knowing that guns were a tool for a job, just like anything else. I grew a passion for shooting from practicing in my backyard and it evolved into a lifestyle.”

His group serves two main functions: to dispel the common myths and misconceptions about guns and to push state legislators and school administrators to grant concealed handgun license holders the same rights on college campuses that those licensees currently have elsewhere.

“I do not believe [the law] will immediately change, but I do believe it eventually will in the future,” said Mansell. “I see a very bright future for Zips for Concealed Carry. I have had a great response from the public and other students contacting me in the last week.”

Smith is no stranger to handling guns. He grew up hunting and using BB guns at his grandfather’s house as a child. At 18, he joined the Marines and became even more familiar with firearms.

“My father in law explained to me how dangerous things are out in the real world when you’re not living on a military base,” said Smith, who got his concealed handgun license after leaving the Marines in June 2011. “Considering I had a wife and child to protect, knowing criminals use firearms, I thought he had a valid point.”

Should students be allowed to have concealed carry on campus?

“No, and the reason why is because I feel like it is too much of a public place out and in the open. Even if they are allowed to carry a gun, I think there is more likely to be a mistake.” – TaVaugha Hayes, senior exercise physiology major.

“I think that more guns doesn’t solve any problems and they shouldn’t be allowed on campus.” Bobby Petricini, sophomore history major.

“I think it should be their right to carry a gun because they are over 18 years old. As long as they’re responsible, it shouldn’t matter.” Alyssa Taylor, senior zoology major

“I think that because obtaining a concealed carry, you have to go through class and a safety training and I’m pretty sure you have to get a background check – that makes me feel more safe. You can’t just walk into a store and get a concealed carry.” Christina Urykci, junior hospitality management major

“I think there should be standards to being able to carry a gun on campus. You should be mentally capable to be able to have a gun, pass some sort of test. But I don’t think everyone should be carrying a gun on campus. It doesn’t seem needed.” – Leigh Ann Penn, sophomore special education major

Contact Kate Murphy at [email protected].