Texas Should Move On Allowing Concealed Carry On College Campuses

John Lott President, Crime Prevention Research Center
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William McRaven, the University of Texas System Chancellor, has weighed in heavily against allowing permitted concealed handguns on college campuses. Disappointingly, despite his fears about safety, difficulties in recruiting and retaining quality faculty, and higher tuition costs, he has offered no evidence to support his claims. With days left in the session, the fate of the bill is too close to call.

At least nine states allow permitted concealed handguns on college campuses: Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, and public universities in Pennsylvania outside of the Penn State system mandate concealed carry on campuses. And Florida and Kentucky public universities let permit holders keep their guns in their cars on campuses. Another 22 states leave it up to individual schools to decide their policy. Yet, despite all this experience, McRaven’s fails to come up with hard evidence of any problems.

Have any of these states experienced an exodus of faculty? No.

Has his concerns about “an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds” been realized? No. Over all the years that states have allowed permitted concealed handguns on campus, there have been a total of just four accidents, with none of them life threatening and three of the four with just very minor injuries.

With well over 800,000 concealed handgun permit holders in Texas, there is a good chance that someone next you in a grocery store or restaurant is carrying a concealed handgun. Across the country permit holders are incredibly law abiding and lose their permits for any firearms related violation at thousandths or tens of thousandths of one percent. In Texas and other states where permit issuance and revocation data is available by year of age, college age permit holders turn out to be at least as law abiding as others.

McRaven asserts that the University of Texas System has already done what was necessary to ensure safety by using emergency notification systems and having campus police. However, even if victims are able to call police, under the best of circumstances, fast response times will probably be no faster than 5 or 6 minutes. The main security problem is never mentioned. Attackers have the strategic advantage of choosing where and when to attack. Since the officers are in uniform, potential killers can either killi the officers first, wait for the officers to leave the area before attacking, or pick another target.

McRaven worries that suicides will increase, but ignores the fact that permit holders have much lower suicide rates than general population. In Michigan, for example, the suicide rate for permit holders is just 37 percent the rate of the general population. In a recent survey of North American economists who have published peer-reviewed research on firearms, 72 percent do not believe that the presence of a gun increases the risk of suicide. If someone wants to commit suicide, there are simply many ways for them to do it.

University law enforcement personnel are said to oppose permitted concealed handguns, worrying “about the ability of our officers to differentiate between the bad actor and persons seeking to defend themselves.” For mass public shootings, there is not a single example of a police officer accidentally shooting a permit holder or where permit holders have accidentally shot a bystander.

Policeone, the largest private organization of law enforcement officials in the U.S. with over 450,000 members, surveyed its members and found that in such “tragedies like Newtown and Aurora … a legally-armed citizen” would likely have been reduced causalities.

Attempts to ban guns from certain areas simply make sure that it is the law-abiding victims who are unarmed. Instead of making places safe for victim, they are made safe for the attackers.

McRaven raises other concerns, such as the risk for hospitals or outpatient facilities, without even providing a few anecdotal examples of problems permit holders created for these venues. There are over 12 million concealed handgun permit holders in the US, and if the problems that McRaven raises were significant,

With close votes coming up and tight deadlines, McRaven’s comments might well make the difference over whether the “campus carry” bill becomes law.  Yet, policy can’t be driven by possibilities of what might possibly happen, especially when we already have lots of data to see what the actual experience is.

John Lott is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and a former chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission.