In most public universities around the country, students must rely on a single sign for protection. Each East Central College building indicates a gun-free zone along the lines of “concealed weapons not permitted.” Do these words shield students from possible assailants or call attention to their defenselessness? There’s a difference between feeling safe and being safe. If passed, Missouri House Bill 1899 will remove the ban on concealed carry firearms on public college campuses beginning August 2016, instilling simple civil liberties and tangible safety measures.

With mass shootings in San Bernardino and Umpqua Community College, many politicians’ solutions are to create more gun-free zones. The common phrase “more guns create more violence” has yet to be proven correct by credible statistics.

According to John Lott Jr., President of the Crime Prevention Research Center, “Since at least 1950, with two exceptions, all the multiple victim public shootings in the US in which more than three people have been killed have taken place where guns are banned.  All the shootings in Europe since at least 1980 also fall into that pattern.”

Gun bans cannot prevent premeditated murders from occurring, but law abiding citizens with concealed carry firearms can. It is crucial to recognize that House Bill 1899 will only allow students twenty-one or older with their concealed carry licenses to carry on campus. Citizens in pursuit of a permit must pass an extensive background check, obtain permission from local law enforcement and complete firearm training.

Mass shootings are not the only gun-related concerns on campus. For females walking back to their cars after evening classes, personal safety is occasionally in the back of their minds. While pepper spray is a common collectible on car keys, it will not stop an attacker from pursuit.  According to The Washington Post, in 2012 Amanda Collins was a few feet from an emergency call box on the University of Nevada in Reno when she was raped. While she had a defensive handgun license, she was unable to protect herself because of the campus carry ban.

Collins asked Colorado senators, “How does rendering me defenseless protect you against a violent crime?”

It is frustrating for many permit holders who serve as law abiding citizens throughout the community, yet must leave their firearms in their vehicles because they do not possess the maturity to carry it on campus grounds.

Many controversial issues weigh the trade-offs between forfeiting either security or liberty, yet this bill will enhance both American rights. Florida lawmakers are debating a similar set of bills that would allow campus carry on all public universities. Students at the University of South Florida debated the pros and cons of weapons on campus at their student government-sponsored event, “Debate-a-Bull.” Freshman Michael Hamp, a history major who came into the debate protesting guns, shifted his view after hearing both arguments.

According to WUSF Public Media, Hamp said,        

“I appreciated (Joshua Knezinek’s) opinions on civil liberties like, you don’t get prosecuted before the action, so his right to bear arms, is being taken away from him before he’s even done anything.” Whether an individual is a gun owner or not, it is viable to support campus carry for the sole fact that it is a Constitutional right.

It is important to view both sides of the debate, but at the end of the day, how will this bill benefit you as a student at East Central College?  If passed, East Central must mandate all permit holders to register their weapons at the beginning of each semester. University administrators may also require students to annually renew their concealed carry licenses.

Yes, ECC has poor campus security. No, future safety precautions will not prevent an intruder from invading campus. It is up to lawmakers to deliberate whether a single sign protects students, or whether Constitutional rights are viable on Missouri campuses.

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