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Guns at School

“Guns have no place in schools,” Arizona State University President Michael Crow was quoted as saying by the Arizona Republic when Gov. Jan Brewer issued a surprise veto this year against legislation that would have allowed guns to be carried on college and university campuses.

The story is different in Colorado.

It is legal for students and everybody else at the University of Colorado to carry concealed weapons since the state Supreme Court earlier this year declared the school’s weapons ban illegal.

In fact, Colorado isn’t the only state where guns can be carried on campus. Utah not only allows the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses but does not permit public colleges or universities to ban them, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The organization also reports that 22 states ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus. But in 25 other states, the decision to ban or allow concealed carry weapons on campuses is made by each institution. (The 25 states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.)

According the U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics, researchers say that the presence of weapons at school “may interfere with teaching and learning by creating an intimidating and threatening atmosphere.”

“May” is something of an understatement.


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Here’s what Brian Siebel wrote in the George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal in 2008:

One can only imagine the nightmarish scenarios that become possible if the gun lobby were successful in forcing guns onto college campuses. Will students bring their AK-47 assault rifles with them to show off while guzzling beer at college keggers? Given that ninety percent of attempted suicides with guns are successful, how much more frequently will temporarily-depressed youths commit suicide if guns are available? Will gun thieves decide that college dorm rooms provide easier marks than private homes?

The school-age years are among the most volatile times in every person’s life. College students face severe social and academic pressures. Why would anyone want to introduce guns into the mix?

Good question.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that in a Youth Risk Behavior Survey, students were asked if they had carried a weapon such as a gun, knife or club in the past 30 days. In 2009, the latest year for which statistics are available, 17 percent of students in grades 9 through 12 reported that they had carried a weapon anywhere on at least one day during the past 30 days. And 6 percent of students reported carrying a weapon on school property during the previous 30 days.

And those are just the weapons kids admitted to having.

Guns rights advocates are saying that the story of the man who shot up the Colorado movie theater and killed a dozen people isn’t really about guns.

But it is.

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Valerie Strauss

Valerie Strauss writes the Answer Sheet blog for the Washington Post.

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