Student org. seeks to permit guns at Illinois

Photo Illustration by Wesley Fane

Photo Illustration by Wesley Fane

By Andy Kwalwaser

The day after last April’s shootings at Virginia Tech, some students at the University of North Texas decided the time had come to rethink gun policy on college campuses.

The organization they formed, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC), wants states to allow students with concealed gun permits to bring their firearms to campus.

SCCC members assert that the measure can avert school tragedies. But law enforcement and gun control activists are wary of an action they say could result in unsafe gun proliferation.

“The purpose is to make light of what we see as a gap in firearm policy on campus,” said Steve Wakeman, junior in LAS and founder of the SCCC chapter at the University. “The idea of a gun-free zone is flawed.”

Most states do not allow gun holders to bring their weapons on campuses, and Illinois is one of only two states to not allow the concealed carry of firearms by licensed gun owners in any location.

Utah allows concealed carry on campus, a policy advocates say balances concerns about safety and Second Amendment rights. A similar concealed carry provision is stalled in the Illinois House of Representatives.

But University Police Chief Jeff Christensen said the presence of guns on campus could create more problems than it would solve.

“Any time you add a gun to a situation, it makes that situation more dynamic,” Christensen said.

Off-duty officers may obtain special permission to carry a concealed firearm on campus, Christensen said.

They undergo training, but even then there are dangers in returning fire.

“If you look at the national statistics, police don’t always hit what they are aiming at, and that’s their job,” Christensen said. “On one side of the coin, if an active shooter comes into a room and someone has a concealed weapon, that could help the situation.”

However, he said firearms can quickly make a situation volatile.

“You can also look at other issues we have with big groups on campus, like special and bar closing time, and you don’t want to mix guns into those situations,” he said.

Some students are uneasy about the presence of guns on campus.

“I’d feel less safe,” said Karina Jimenez, freshman in LAS, “I don’t know if people would use them in safe ways.”

Any change in campus gun policy needs to take security into account, Wakeman said.

“I hear very often that people are fearful of having guns on campus,” he said. “It’s good to be respectful of this and think of it. But it’s a misplaced fear.”

Christensen said individuals rarely have firearms on University property.

There were 16 arrests for illegal weapons possession on or near campus between 2003 and 2006, according the most recent statistics made available by the University police.

Concealed carry could deter campus crime, said Andrew White, president of Illini on Target, a firearms RSO.

“Some people who can’t adequately defend themselves against force without force could benefit,” said White, senior in ACES. “I can’t say this would make campus safer as a whole, but I don’t believe it would make campus more dangerous.”