Opinion

Gun law exception sacrifices safety

A feminist critic scheduled to speak at Utah State University on the week of Oct. 16 cancelled her engagement after receiving death threats to which the university was insufficiently equipped to respond.

As Tim Vitale, Utah State’s executive director of public relations and marketing, told The Chronicle of Higher Education, the university responded immediately to the threat, heightening security for speaker Anita Sarkeesian’s lecture by sweeping the room for explosives and installing additional law enforcement in the room.

However, it could not fulfill Sarkeesian’s request for metal detector screenings and a temporary ban on concealed weapons because the Utah’s gun laws allow individuals with concealed carry permits to bring their weapons on university campuses.

Utah State’s inability to make students and guests feel safe demonstrates an alarming flaw in U.S. legal codes with the potential to affect even those college campuses where firearms are currently prohibited.

The Gun Free School Zones Act forbids the possession of a firearm in, on the grounds of or within 1,000 feet of a public, private or parochial school. However, this federal law does not apply to gun holders with concealed carry licenses. Some states have taken additional measures to address this limitation, but for the most part, these restrictions have grown increasingly lax.

The exemption of concealed carriers to this law violates an individual’s reasonable expectation of safety in an academic institution. With no credible evidence to suggest that the presence of guns on campus reduces violence, stricter legal measures are necessary to ensure that school campuses remain firearm-free.

At first glance, there seems to be no reason to believe that college campuses deserve special treatment, that concealed weapons carriers should be banned from universities but not, for example, from supermarkets.

However, college students are at a particularly high risk for mental illness. According to the American College Health Association, 31.2 percent of all college students surveyed in 2013 reported feeling so depressed that it was difficult to function at some point in the past 12 months.

Suicide, which accounts for 61 percent of all firearm fatalities in the U.S., is nine out of 10 times committed by a mentally ill person, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In light of these statistics, campuses warrant gun laws stricter than those currently in place.

Florida is currently one of only 23 states that prohibits concealed weapons carriers from bringing their weapons onto public or private campuses. Regardless, this issue should register on our radars.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, lawmakers in 14 states have introduced bills this year that would allow concealed carry. There is no guarantee that Florida will not do the same. Moreover, even if we do not plan to live in Florida in the future, laws in other states may affect us and our children.

Ultimately, the scandal at Utah State highlights an alarming negligence on the part of the U.S. government in guaranteeing the sense of security to which each citizen is entitled. We must all be aware of such issues and be prepared to act accordingly should the vote fall into our hands.

Editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board.

October 29, 2014

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