Gun control debate engulfs campus
By Joseph CabreraPosted Jan 23, 2013
In the wake of numerous school shootings from across the nation, Ohio State has been adamant about ensuring our safety, but how ready are we? As a university and a student body, there are mixed assessments.
One thing that seems to be certain for the immediate future, though, is the impossibility of concealed carry being allowed on campus. President E. Gordon Gee has been vocal about his opposition to the law, and previously stated he is "unequivocally opposed" to the idea. As long as we're still under his reign, the concealed carry notion won't be entertained in the slightest.
Ohio is one of 21 states that ban carrying a concealed weapon on any college campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures website. OSU currently has a policy that prohibits individuals from carrying guns on campus, which the student group Ohio Students for Concealed Carry considers a clear violation of the Second Amendment. The group is planning to lay a lawsuit on the university
"We are actively lobbying for changes, so we want to see them yesterday,” said Ohio SCC founder, Michael Newbern, a third-year in industrial and systems engineering. “We weren't safe on campus or our travels to and from before Newtown. Gun control restricts the rights of law-abiding citizens and in effect, gives criminals the upper hand. Instead of more restrictions that will only affect law-abiding citizens, we need to discuss the restoration of the right to self-defense.”
The university’s only statement was that, “Dr. Gee has heard from all sides of this challenging issue and remains firm in the position against allowing guns on campus. The university has no plans to change its current concealed-carry policy,” according to Amy Murray, OSU spokeswoman.
Dustin Bennett, a third-year in art, said he doesn't want to see a more heavily armed student body and is weary of its possible implications.
"I think we ought to keep the laws as they are. I don't want people to have the right to carry guns on campus,” Bennett said. “Maybe there are sensible citizens out there who would be fine walking around with a gun, but theft is a large issue on campus, and if guns are thrown into the mix then, I can see us having even more unimaginably terrible issues to deal with."
However many students were quite in favor of any citizen expressing their rights to own a gun.
Alex Lauginiger, a fourth-year in economics, said he thinks anyone who passes the state standards should have the freedom to exercise their constitutional right.
"I have always felt safe on campus, and I don't think legalized concealed carry is a necessity,” Lauginiger said, “but if a student legally obtains a concealed carry license, they should be allowed to carry as they see fit."
J.R. Graham, a third-year in mechanical engineering, said he wants to see more focus on the type of guns citizens are allowed to own.
"As much as I wouldn't like the government to get involved, something has to happen, you can't have these kids running around with assault rifles,” Graham said. “There need to be restrictions or a ban on certain types of firearms."
OSU Police Chief Paul Denton assures that the department is on top of things and does everything in its power to keep OSU a first-rate protection zone.
"In terms of a (possible) shooting, we are elite among our peers in response and preparedness,” Denton said. “We are well-prepared with equipment and resources to respond effectively. We are one of the few campus police agencies in the nation with our own response team."
Denton also addressed the mental health concerns that have arisen in public debates as of late and pointed out that OSU works equally as hard at managing those issues.
"I think our campus has a focus on prevention and specifically dealing with disturbed or disruptive individuals … (and) healing distressed individuals, providing guides and discussions and training sessions have all taken place,” Denton said. “The student conduct office works among those lines and we would then help individuals that may pose a threat to themselves or others.”
Lastly, he responded to the concealed carry laws and advised those who may feel they are exposed to danger to seek proper defense.
"If people are following the law and abiding by the law in their community by upholding their right to the second amendment, we respect that,” Denton said. “We also offer programs for self defense ... putting oneself in a self defense mindset takes on more than just being physically able to defend yourself. Also, I would strongly encourage everyone not to be fearful or hesitant to call on an authority – which can be police, an RA, staff, whoever that may be – when you see someone in distress."
Some students said they think the government’s decision to make gun’s harder to procure may increase the average person’s vulnerability.
"I don't like that the government is tightening gun control. I believe that it will just take the guns away from good people and not make a difference.” said Nick Kelly, a fourth-year in psychology. “Criminals aren't buying their guns at the store and getting them registered; this will just create a bigger black market for guns, putting them in the hands of criminals."
Whereas another student said he feels the options to possess a gun should remain open to any qualified applicant.
"I feel the same as I always have, which is decently safe,” said John Griffith, a third-year in human resources. “That opinion also comes with the fact that at Ohio State and in the Columbus area I feel extremely safe when I'm in class, walking around or out at night. As for gun control, I believe if someone wants to own a gun they should be able to as long as they meet the criteria that is already in place."
Opinions about gun control are incredibly diverse among college students, but the one consensus is that most, regardless of their concealed carry stance, seem to feel safe on campus. That observation, coupled with Denton’s assured readiness, is at least a comforting combination.
Bianca Briggs and Chelsea Castle contributed to this story.