Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

State gun laws prompt debate

In response to a number of shooting incidents on college campuses in the past few years, the Counseling Center, UAPD and the Office of Emergency Preparedness sponsored an active shooter training program Feb. 18.

The training, offered through the department of human resources, was a response to faculty and staff inquiries about how to properly handle an active shooter situation on campus. It included a video of a simulated emergency response. Although the event was for faculty and staff, UAPD’s Community Oriented Police officers also offer training and awareness programs in residence halls and to student organizations on request.

The active shooter training program speaks to a larger debate about the right to carry guns on campus. Under current University policy, students are not allowed to possess or carry guns on campus. Following the passing of Senate Bill 286 last fall, which expanded the rights of citizens to openly carry firearms in the state of Alabama, a debate about the right to carry guns has been brewing on campus.

(See also “After 3 mass shootings in 2012, prioritize life over guns“)

SB 286 loosened regulations for possession of firearms, specifically allowing gun owners with permits to store guns in their cars. In addition, it imposes fines on law enforcement officials who attempt to stop legal gun owners from openly carrying their firearms.

According to the law, carrying a visible, holstered firearm in a public place does not constitute the crime of disorderly conduct. Seventeen states, including Alabama, currently allow for the open carry of firearms in public. Open carry is still illegal on college campuses – an issue that is dividing student opinion.

“It’s an important debate to have, because you have your civil liberties up against your safety,” Steven Sebastian, member of the UA College Democrats, said. “In general, we would be against open carry on campus. You can’t rent a car if you’re not [older than] 25, and they’re saying they want these people to have guns? It’s just a bad idea. On a college campus, it’s just so dangerous. It really has no place here.”

According to UAPD, no one on campus, including students, faculty, staff and visitors, may use, possess or transport firearms while on the premises. In addition, UAPD does not issue permits for the carry of firearms. Students who legally possess firearms may, however, temporarily store them with UAPD.

With the recent incidents of mass shootings on college campuses at the centerpiece of this debate, some student groups support concealed carry. Concealed carry allows people who are legally in possession of a firearm and obtained a concealed carry permit to have the weapon out of sight on their person at any time.

(See also “Gun control law only first step to prevent violence“)

Kenny Caldwell of Students for Concealed Carry said the University’s policy should change to reflect the new state laws.

“We support concealed carry because we believe your right to self-defense does not end just because you happen to cross a line onto a campus,” Caldwell said. “Most mass shootings happen in gun-free zones, and if I have a permit to concealed carry, there should be nothing that prohibits me from being at a public university with my handgun.”

Andrew Parks, president of the UA chapter of Young Conservatives of America, said he is in favor of background checks for those applying for concealed carry permits. Parks said safety is the number one benefit of a concealed carry policy.

“There is sort of a discouraging effect that comes with concealed carry in that people are less likely to commit a crime against you if they know you’re armed,” Parks said. “It’s certainly magnified with open carry, because then it goes from a covert to an overt thing. By the same token, there’s also a bit of apprehension whenever the carry of firearms comes into play, with people who feel concerned that other people may have weapons on them, and I would imagine that would be magnified for people who are carrying openly as opposed to people who are carrying in a concealed fashion.”

Sebastian argued that allowing guns in classrooms increases the chances of violence rather than discouraging it. He said just because other colleges allow for either concealed or open carry does not mean it should be implemented at the University.

“It really comes down to local communities, I believe, and states taking a common–sense approach,” Sebastian said. “Every community is different.”

(See also “Solution to campus shootings is not more guns“)

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