States need to consider effects laws have on Universities’ climates

As state schools, we are somewhat bound to the state in terms of laws and regulations. Sometimes that’s a pain (can we say, “Illinois tuition?”); sometimes it’s a good thing (our tuition is far lower than a private school like Northwestern University). Whatever it is, though, the school is trained to roll with the punches.

But what happens when the state asks a University to do something that goes against the school’s general beliefs? Even worse, what happens when the state requires something that puts a school in a tizzy of uneasiness?

Yes, I’m talking about the fact that the state of Colorado requires that the University of Colorado allow students to carry concealed weapons. Of course, this isn’t anything new. The state of Colorado made this law in March. It follows the overall outlook on guns in the state: The gun laws strongly lean toward the individual’s right to carry firearms. In Colorado, for example, obtaining a permit for a gun is a “relatively lax process”:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/21/us/colorado-gun-laws-remain-lax-despite-changes-after-columbine.html compared to other states.

It’s just surprising that the law wasn’t repealed immediately after the Colorado shooting at the Aurora movie theater. Colorado faculty met Friday to discuss bringing back a gun-ban on campus and tried to think of ways to convince the state to repeal laws that require the University to permit concealed weapons.

Now, I can just hear the arguments against my peace-loving, pacifist nature. Guns don’t kill people; people do. And how will people who need to defend themselves do so if they’re not sufficiently protected? In fact, David Burneet, spokesman for Students for Concealed Carry, said carrying a firearm gives students the right to protect themselves, reported the “New York Times”:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/23/education/guns-on-campus-at-university-of-colorado-causes-unease.html?pagewanted=1&ref=education&_r=0.

Still, I want to remind everyone of an age-old adage: You can’t fight fire with fire. Also, you can’t ignore the fact that the shooter was a grad student on campus — a campus that allowed students to have concealed weapons.

But the biggest issue here is how the presence of guns is making the campus feel. Despite the state requiring that the University of Colorado allow its students to carry firearms, that doesn’t make the campus feel more secure. Just because more students have guns doesn’t mean that they will be able to stop another shooting. The shooting hit close to the campus’ heart. In light of recent events, the only kind of culture that could exist is one full of uneasiness.

The state needs to look at the University of Colorado’s climate right now. Overall, the feel of the whole campus, especially coming from teachers, is disquieting. One faculty member put it best when she said the campus is “a place where we depend on being able to speak our minds and offer sometimes controversial opinions in a free and open place.”

It’s hard to promote that train of thought, however, when there is a widespread climate of fear. If a controversial topic escalates to a student getting angry, there will now be an underlying stress that a student may use a weapon to enforce a point. This is an extreme example, but after an event like the Aurora shooting, it’s not too farfetched. 

But after the incident in July, there is a right to be unnerved when your college campus — a place that was supposed to be safe for students — allows concealed weapons. Colorado wants to be sure that those with a permit and reason to have a concealed weapon have the right to own one. That’s fine. But what about the students’ and faculty’s right to feel safe on their campus?

All states should heed Colorado as an example. No, the issue in question may not always be about concealed weapons. But before they go and issue laws to mimic the state’s attitude, they need to think: “How is going to affect the climate of education and safety at the University?”

Tolu is a senior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]