Concealed Carry on College Campuses: Issues & Updates

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Concealed Carry on College Campuses: Issues & Updates

A very hotly-debated topic now is the right to conceal carry a handgun on college campuses and school property. What seems an obvious or pretty basic decision by many, is not by others. It can become complicated.

Some even add the issue of faculty and students carrying a gun at ANY school-related event or activity ANYPLACE. So, this latter consideration could involve college football games (home and/or away games) or off-campus school-sanctioned fraternities, sororities, sponsored clubs or organizations and their events. Beer Busts? Hazing activities? This issue can involve a lot of folks, places, many Benjamins, and maybe even borderline immoral or illegal activities, let alone the right to conceal carry in general.

Many maintain that the Second Amendment rights do not stop at college campuses and that all people have a God-given right to carry their guns on campuses and to not be a victim. Especially, that women have a right to protect themselves from sexual assaults.

Open Carry (can openly carry a firearm in public; not concealed carry) is allowed on certain public college campuses, e.g. Utah. Forty-five states currently allow Open Carry. Five states prohibit Open Carry in public: California, New York, Illinois, South Carolina, and Florida. So many issues and factors to consider.

Some strongly believe that students, faculty, and staff should NOT be allowed to carry handguns on school property… and for any college-related event or activity, while others believe just the opposite. Campus concealed carry generally only pertains to public colleges and universities, although some states require private colleges to take an affirmative step to opt-out.

Now, all 50 states allow citizens to carry concealed weapons, if they meet certain state requirements. Eleven states allow campus carry at this time, with 16 more states considering it. Those allowing it say that an armed faculty or staff member (some add armed student) could have prevented or diminished the recent casualties at campus shootings. Others disagree. There is a wide variety of changing handgun and/or concealed carry laws and complexities among several states.

As of May 12, 2017, there are 16 states that BAN concealed carry on college campuses:

  • California
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan*
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • South Carolina
  • Wyoming

* Michigan law currently prohibits concealed carry permit holders from carrying concealed handguns in “gun-free zones,” including college classrooms and dormitories. However, the Michigan State University (MSU) Board of Trustees voted to change its policy concerning concealed carry on campus in 2009. Previously, guns were completely banned from the MSU campus, but they voted to allow guns to be carried through campus, as long as the guns remained out of campus buildings. The Board made the decision so that campus policies were better aligned with state law. Now MSU allows visitors (but not employees or students) to concealed carry on university property, except in classrooms and dormitories, per ArmedCampuses.org. In Michigan, a person with a concealed carry license may legally open carry as long as they are 18 years of age and lawfully purchased the pistol, per MCL 28.422.

In 23 states the decision to ban or allow concealed carry on campuses is made by each college or university INDIVIDUALLY, like in Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Oklahoma, Washington, and West Virginia.

READ MORE: Your College Kid’s Guide to Personal Protection

In 2017, two states passed legislation to allow faculty and students to carry guns on college campuses, Arkansas and Georgia. Since 2016, a Tennessee law allows full-time faculty and staff members, not students, with handgun carry permits to carry firearms on campuses in their college system. In 2017, there is a bill to extend that right to valid Tennessee permit holders, including students, but there is opposition. Utah was the first state to allow guns on campuses in 2004. In 2015, Texas became the eighth state to allow concealed carry weapons on college campuses. In December 2016, Ohio law lifted the ban on firearms on college campuses and allows the concealed carry decision to individual college institutions. In 2013, 19 states and in 2014, 14 states introduced legislation to allow some form of concealed carry on campuses. Legislation passed in Mississippi in 2011 that creates an exception to allow concealed carry on college campuses for those who have taken a voluntary course on safe handling and use of firearms by a certified instructor.

There is a lot of varied state legislation pending now, so carefully get updated regularly on this issue. 16 state Bills have been introduced so far now in 2017, e.g. Alaska, New Mexico, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

As of May 12, 2017, 11 states ALLOW concealed carry on college campuses:

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Mississippi
  • Oregon
  • Texas
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Wisconsin

Usual Penalty for Campus Concealed Carry Violations

For faculty, staff, and students, I generally understand that violating campus concealed carry law by intentionally displaying a handgun or going into a restricted gun-free campus carry area is usually a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $4,000-$5,000 fine, depending on the state. Most states require the faculty or student to already have a concealed carry permit or license (usually age 21 to acquire), so those under the age of 21 would not be permitted to concealed carry. Probably the majority (not all) of students are under age 21. As a legal layman, I understand that those without a valid permit or license to concealed carry who enter a campus building with a handgun probably commit a third-degree Felony, usually punishable by jail time of 2 to 10 years and a fine up to $10,000. Remember, I am not an attorney and not giving legal advice nor opinions.

Faculty Members and Concealed Carry

There are many complicated and involved issues about concealed carry on college campuses. Just one complicating factor on college campuses is “may faculty members inquire about whether or not a student has a concealed carry permit/license.” Another is “may faculty members take any action against a student.” If so, what? Of course, this varies greatly by state laws and college policies. Usually faculty members may ask, but from what I understand as a layman, students are not required to provide that information. Nor may Faculty members usually not take any action against a student who chooses not to answer or coerce them. Much uncertainty and subjective interpretation here.

Still another important college concealed carry issue is what happens if there is an off-campus event or activity which is college related and/or sponsored, and someone displays a gun? While Arkansas law, for example, allows concealed carry on college campuses, it prohibits carrying at collegiate athletic events, like football games. Of course, your state laws and location and/or the individual college policy (if in existence or appropriate) would determine whether concealed carry or open carry is legal or permissible and where. Student conduct standards and college police rules and policies are also involved. Again, much to consider and several states and colleges do not have specific guidelines, rules, or policies in effect yet about this. What if a student living in one state decides to go out-of-state to a college with a completely different set of rules and state concealed carry laws?

College campuses have become a new battleground in the issue of concealed carry on campuses and involvement of Faculty and staff members. Tennessee law allows all full-time college employees, including Faculty members, to concealed carry. Their state law does protect higher education institutions from monetary liability for the use of handguns. Again, many issues and liabilities involved, aside from Second Amendment rights.

Some colleges have relaxed their rules, such as Liberty University in Virginia and Texas A&M University, where a ban on firearms in residence halls and dormitories will probably be lifted now.

In Ohio, individual colleges can decide about concealed carry. Just this month at Cedarville University in Ohio, the decision was made to allow full-time employees (faculty and staff) with a concealed carry permit to carry on campus, after submitting an application and getting approval. Concealed carry is not open to students or part-time employees.

Arkansas became the 11th state to allow concealed carry on campuses about a month or so ago. Arkansas faculty and staff have been permitted to concealed carry at public colleges under a 2013 law that required schools to opt in, but none had previously. In Arkansas, the concealed carry permit requires training that teaches how to handle their guns in various situations. The training is more about the legalities and the use of deadly force as a concealed carry permit holder, in addition to how to operate a gun.

In Florida now, it is not legal to carry a firearm on college campuses by a student, faculty member, or staff. Florida is one of the 16 states with this ban. According to the Florida Carry Association, it is legal for a faculty member, employee, or registered student of a college or university who has a concealed carry license to carry a concealed stun gun or non-lethal electric weapon/device designed solely for defensive purposes, as long as it does not fire a dart or projectile. They also say that you may legally possess a firearm in your personal vehicle (securely encased) at any Florida college, university, or tech school. Also, Florida Carry says that it is legal to store a firearm in your personal vehicle at any private school in Florida. Keep current on state concealed carry laws because they are changing frequently now.

I hope this update on concealed carry on college campuses have given you some recent information that you do not have and caused you to think about this hot issue, the varying and complex requirements and laws, and our Second Amendment rights.

Continued Success!

Photo by Author.

* This personal opinion article is meant for general information & educational purposes only and the author strongly recommends that you seek counsel from an attorney for legal advice and your own personal certified weapons trainer for proper guidance about shooting & using YOUR firearms, self-defense and concealed carry. It should not be relied upon as accurate for all shooters & the author assumes no responsibility for anyone’s use of the information and shall not be liable for any improper or incorrect use of the information or any damages or injuries incurred whatsoever.

© 2017 Col Benjamin Findley. All Rights Reserved. This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in whole or in part by mechanical means, photocopying, electronic reproduction, scanning, or any other means without prior written permission. For copyright information, contact Col Ben Findley at [email protected].

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  • Alan Lynn

    You may join the military and go into combat at 18 but you are too immature to carry on campus at any age.

    • One can vote at 18 and buy smokes. Can’t drink alcohol though.

      • Alan Lynn

        That is true but I don’t see the relevance.

        • Col Ben

          Hi Alan. I think what Jim is saying is that the “age of majority” is the recognized age for adulthood so an individual is legally recognized in a certain jurisdiction as being responsible for his/her own actions and decisions (like buying smokes, drinking alcohol, & voting); parents are not. This varies greatly among states & countries even. Of course, it does not necessarily relate to an individual’s mental and physical maturity and it varies a lot among folks. The Age of M. in Alabama & Nebraska, for example, is 19 and NOT age 18 as in most other states. Some it is age 21, like CO, MS, etc. I’m heading to Puerto Rico soon and the Age of M. there is age 21. Varies a lot. It is age 15 in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia, Yemen, etc. Age 16 in Cuba. Confusing!

          • Alan Lynn

            I understand that. But even at 21 when you can carry just about everywhere the University says that you are a danger if you carry on campus. I understand being 18 and not being allowed, I don’t agree but I understand. But you could be 40 and they still don’t want you to carry. This isn’t about age or maturity it is a bias that you do not have the right to effectively defend your own life.

          • And you could be 40 and in the military and the same is true. It’s irrelevant. The only way it can change is either at the policy level at the school if it’s private or through the legislature if it’s a government school. In my current home state, we have constitutional carry. I don’t need a license to carry (I do have one though) which has few restrictions. For some reason they can’t get it voted on by both houses.

          • Alan Lynn

            Hoplophobia the irrational fear of guns. Some people see the actual gun itself as evil. They will never agree to having guns around. Universities in Texas are fighting campus Carry.
            Having the facts doesn’t always mean convincing people.

          • Col Ben

            Amen! Absolutely Alan. A gun is a “tool” that is manipulated by a person… for good or evil purposes. Few if any things are “facts” or indisputable truth. Seems everything is relative, subjective, and open for interpretation. What is the “truth” for one is not for another. Even this statement. We use Facts as evidence that what we believe is indisputable to support what we believe… which is relative. What is the “truth?” Something that is actually 100% totally known or proven by first-hand experience or observation. What an esoteric subject. The real problem is the individual, not the tool!

          • Col Ben

            Confusing. For example, Arkansas acted to allow Const.Carry, but their courts are fighting over this now. Different legal opinions. Montana only allows Const.Carry outside city limits. And OK only allows it for residents of states that have Const.Carry. New Hampshire just signed it into law March 2017. Many interpretations, no training, some training, or specific training– different requirements and opinions. Seems we didn’t have this trouble with allowing folks to drive in all the states… and a vehicle has been determined to be a “deadly” weapon in some court cases. Pray for win-win-win result!

          • You have to wonder what interests are competing when there’s such a wide variety of interpretations of constitutional carry or anything else. The sausage will get more complex if we go for a national right to carry or whatever they are calling it. I don’t think that will happen because there are some jurisdictions/political geographies were that won’t fly. NYC, DC, Chicago, CA, etc. There’d be too many exceptions to get it passed that why have it. On the other hand it would be nice to be able to visit home without having to lock my shit in the trunk or forego it altogether. Sometimes the political and social diversity of this country amazes me and I guess that’s why we haven’t completely gone down the road Europe has, as least not completely or as quickly.

    • Col Ben

      Hey Alan, Thanks for your comment. Yes I hear you. Utah right now has legislation pending to lower the minimum age to 18 from 21 for concealed carry. Other states also have some similar bills pending. Constant flux. If I recall correctly, about 18 states allow you to buy a handgun at age 18. And one Vermont allows it at age 16.

  • I work at a university and it’s not just guns that are banned, but all weapons. I even have to go to a training for shooters on campus. Basically we were told to get out if you can, if you can’t, shelter in place and if you and/or others get captured by a perp, decide who gets to eat the shit sandwich by attacking the perp. Bills for campus carry have come up in the legislature, but they never go anywhere. I’d bet our president tries to quash it. The interesting thing is that we’re a constitutional carry state.

    • Col Ben

      Jim,
      Yes a complex issue. Now 11 states have enacted Constitutional Carry with no license/permit requirement and no training requirement. 20 other states have introduced a bill in process for it, as of March 1, 2017. Montana vetoed its bill. Bills have NOT been introduced in CA, HI, IL, MD, MA, NY, WA, OR, etc. How do you feel about NO TRAINING requirement for true Constitutional Carry? Of course, there are theory and practical aspects to no training.

      • I had to present documentation that I had taken training in the last 3 years, which i had in Iowa prior to moving to AZ. When I lived in NY, the county gave the training and we had to pass a shooting and written test. Since then, I think they dropped the training, but I could be wrong, or maybe the county doesn’t do it anymore. It was pretty strict. In Iowa, a Des Moines detective had his own training company and that’s where I took it. It had a practical as well, but I shot with my own gun, whereas in NY, I had to use the police issue 38 that the instructor had. So to answer your question, I think it’s a very good idea to have training, especial law and safety, but with constitutional stuff, generally my opinion is that their shouldn’t be a qualifier. A right is a right…BUT, I wouldn’t be so against it…

        • Col Ben

          Missouri passed a law that eliminates required training, background checks & no permit requirements like demonstrating range live-fire proficiency, in order to carry a concealed firearm. Some others are similar about not requiring training. Here in FL our state training requirement specifies that demonstration of proficiency with hands-on live-fire training is mandatory. Even with our 7-8 hour thorough classes and live-fire training, some do not adequately demonstrate proficiency. After much safety training and safety practice scenarios, some are really bad and very UNSAFE even at close distances of 5 and 7 yards, so I found myself (reluctantly from a Constitutional Carry perspective) failing them and not issuing a Certificate.Yes, they have the right to carry… a right is a right like you said, but must they do so safely after in-depth training, much safety emphasis, etc.?

          • Ultimately, a right implies responsibility. If someone exercises the right to carry, I don’t think it’s a burden to have to pass a proficiency and safety test after taking a class. Some places in the world people have to take psychological screenings every year or some interval. Not necessarily where I want to go as such screenings involve interpretation.

      • G50AE

        I refer to Constitutional Carry Laws as “We don’t need no stinkin badges laws”. This allows me to support the second amendment rights of law abiding citizens while at the same time making fun of sheepdogs.

  • Erik Kjellquist

    On one hand, I can understand why weapons would be banned, because colleges tend to have large groups of students and non-students and don’t typically have high degrees of security, often not even armed safety / security (exceptions such as the SUNY system, which all have University Police officers). Statistically, colleges also tend to have more incidents where personal responsibility was eschewed; not to deride students as a whole, but you expect it to a degree; for a lot of students it’s their first time away from home, semi-on their own and they’re pushing boundaries and finding themselves. You add in firearms to that mix, and one can imagine a host of avoidable tragedies.

    On the other hand, campuses can be among the softer targets out there, and those students, faculty, etc. who ARE responsible and properly vetted / CCW-permitted by their state could not only be helpful in an emergency, but could also educate and reassure others. Colleges should also be more readily able to provide legit security for group events and lectures such that CCW folks have a legal, easy way to store their firearms in secure areas outside those events deemed sensitive or otherwise gun-free. Through policy, procedure and stiff penalties for serious infractions, as well as sensible training and marksmanship requirements and legal protections, there can certainly be a middle ground where at least SOME of those who want to carry can do so.

    Campuses are essentially second homes for students, and they deserve the right, along with faculty and staff to develop and evolve their own implementations of policy, as would any other workplace or facility where people spend much of their lives. At the same time, it’s going to take a culture shift for people to come around on this issue, and a big part of that involves education on the reality of firearms ownership, safety, rights and responsibilities. Gun owners have a duty to abide the law and be models of CCW best practices not only for their own sake, but to correct misconceptions, and through mutual respect, help others to understand why self-defense is an important decision of personal responsibility.

    • We have armed police where I work and they have to have gone through the state police academy.

      • Erik Kjellquist

        It makes sense; at least in New York State, police go through what’s essentially the same basic 47-hour firearms course requirement that armed security guards do (though obviously LEOs ultimately go through far more / longer courses). Some campuses have safety officers that are essentially unarmed security guards that can use pepper spray but otherwise have to call local police – in these situations where you don’t have armed personnel immediately available I can see a greater need for CCW; at the same time, imo there’s a point at which enough requirements and recertification would reasonably allow private CCWs and prevent abuse, provided campus security / police have a reasonable way to know who’s permitted w/o having to constantly stop people…

      • Col Ben

        Hey Jim, I taught for over 25 years at different universities and all had their own police department with sworn officers who carried guns. Many were very well trained & could handle deadly force situations. Sadly, there were some. A young co-ed friend of ours was brutally raped & killed on campus. She could not protect herself. Prayers to the famly… and caution to students.

        • I have no truck with the campus police. Outside of one incident with a professor that resulted in the firing of an officer, they’ve been good. We even have a motor cop. That said, I wish we could carry here, even if it required CCW.

    • Alan Lynn

      You have to be 21 for CCW. This means several years at school before they would have a permit and maybe a bit of maturity.

      • I had a CCW in Nassau County NY at the age of 19.

        • Alan Lynn

          Jim Lagnese: Were you a responsible gun owner or did you get drunk and shoot out street lights. I think most people can be responsible. It is a matter of choosing what your priorities are. Do you take the responsibility seriously or not?

          • I’ve had CCW in every state I have lived over the last 36 years.

          • G50AE

            But that doesn’t answer Alan Lynn’s question, “did you get drunk and shoot out street lights?”

          • Sure I did. Had I, I would not have had CCWs in those states, particularly NY, which is harder to get one.

          • G50AE

            And then you wouldn’t get to wear your CCW Badge. LOL

          • I don’t need no stinking badges

          • G50AE

            Usually the letter g is left off when referring to CCW Badges, stinkin rather than stinking. Just to point out a piece of proper sheepdog grammar.

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