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Walking into any building on campus, students will notice a small black sticker that states they are prohibited from carrying firearms or other weapons inside the premises. While this may seem like common sense to some, the stickers are there to remind students of the exemption campus buildings have to Wisconsin’s concealed carry law. Although students remain free to arm themselves outside on campus, any firearms they may have can not be legally carried indoors. Two Wisconsin lawmakers seek to remove this exemption, effectively allowing guns into places like dorms, classrooms and athletic facilities.
The Wisconsin bill introduced by Rep. Jesse Kremer, and Sen. Devin LeMahieu should disconcert students and faculty at UW Oshkosh who value a safe and welcoming learning environment.
While there is certainly a place for guns in society, the classroom is not one of them. The various buildings on campus are supposed to be places where students and faculty can freely discuss concepts and ideas– some of which may be controversial. Some people are worried that the fear of a potential violent conflict could deter people from speaking their mind about hot button issues.
Political science professor Druscilla Scribner said she thinks the presence of guns in classrooms could potentially affect or stifle student debate, and she would feel more at risk if guns were legally allowed in campus buildings.
“The classroom should be a safe place where students can consider complex and controversial issues, theories and problems from multiple perspectives,and where they can voice and hear different opinions and arguments about which they may have strong feelings and beliefs,” Scribner said. “Guns should not be in classrooms.”
Although many gun owners in the state may understand the responsibility they have, it remains too easy for those who are unqualified to legally carry a loaded weapon. The training required to obtain a concealed carry permit in Wisconsin is grossly inadequate. The state necessitates concealed carry applicants complete a single firearm safety course from a list of options. One of these options is the hunter’s safety class that many take when they are still teenagers. Many hunter’s safety courses are strictly informational and don’t even contain live fire exercises for hunting weapons let alone handguns.
“I don’t think the training required by the state is adequate, you really just need to have that hunter’s safety training,” University Police Chief Chris Tarmann said. “A rifle is very different than a handgun.”
Tarmann said he thinks a lot of concealed carry owners do attend additional training, but those who simply take the basic hunter’s safety course could put the community at risk.
“I don’t necessarily believe that guns in the buildings are going to be a positive for campus,” Tarmann said. “If we have untrained people carrying weapons around inside buildings on campus, that just presents more risk to the population.”
Criminal justice professor Dr. David Jones agreed that guns in campus buildings could pose a danger to students and faculty.
“If nothing else, the presence of guns could increase the likelihood of a serious accident; moreover, some students drink,” Jones said. “With too much booze comes decrease in self-control. Somebody could get hurt.”
On Monday, Kremer told the host of WIBA-AM, Matt Kittle that he expects the bill to serve as a deterrent to crime on college campuses.
In a co-sponsorship memo, Kremer and LeMahieu claim that not allowing students to carry their firearms to class infringes up their second amendment right.
“We’re basically treating our college students as lesser citizens,” Kremer said. “We’re disarming them and allowing these thugs free reign over the neighborhood.”
Kremer insisted that the bill was not a response to the Roseburg, Oregon campus shooting that killed nine people two weeks ago, but said it is intended to quell the fears of college students who feel unsafe walking to class.
A multi-decade study from Stanford University concluded that state concealed carry laws are associated with an increase in violent crime.
“The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates of aggravated assault, rape, robbery and murder,” co-author of the study, John J. Donohue III, said.
The few instances when guns are used lawfully in self defense do not adequately rationalize the abundance of conceal carry laws across the nation.
A recent study by the Violence Policy Center found that justifiable homicide using firearms by private citizens is a rare occurrence.
“The study found that in 2012, there were only 259 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm,” VPC’s website states. “That same year, there were 8,342 criminal firearm homicides, based on data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting Program’s Supplementary Homicide Report.”
Allowing everyone on campus to legally carry firearms wherever they please gives them the potential to intimidate or endanger those around them.
UWO Assistant Vice Chancellor Jamie Ceman said the bill needs to be fully evaluated to determine its implications.
“There are real concerns with the bill that is being proposed, Ceman said. “This campus is incredibly focused on the safety of students, faculty and staff and we have solid protocol in place to respond to an incident if it were to occur. In fact, we regularly practice these protocols so we can be prepared to jump into action if needed.”
One can only hope the University will do its best to oppose this bill. Its dangerous consequences affect every student and faculty member on campus and those who care about the issue would be wise to contact these two out-of-touch legislators and voice their concerns.