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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Oregon provides ammo to gun lobby

    Gun enthusiasts, rejoice: Oregon has overturned a firearms ban and undermined the safety of its universities.

    At the end of last month, the Oregon Court of Appeals lifted a longstanding firearms ban on university campuses when the three-judge panel decided only the state Legislature has the authority to regulate guns.

    The Oregon Firearms Educational Foundation filed the lawsuit in response to the 2009 arrest of a Western Oregon University student for carrying a gun on campus. He had a concealed carry license, and the charge against him was later dropped.

    The court’s ruling decided that the on-campus ban was invalid because the Oregon University System does not have the authority to control firearms.

    It wasn’t a complete victory for the OFEF. The court declined to rule on the contention that the campus ban violates Second Amendment rights because its decision invalidated the ban anyway. Judges also denied the OFEF’s claim that the Oregon University System could not impose rules governing campus visitors’ conduct.

    Still, the judges’ ruling is progress for gun supporters, and the Second Amendment issue is bound to come up again if the university system decides to appeal.

    For now, Oregon campuses are examining ways to get around the ruling. While the university system can’t issue a blanket ban on concealed firearms, there may be loopholes like including clauses in contracts for residence halls that would not permit weapons in dorm rooms, or requiring football ticket-buyers to agree not to bring a weapon inside the football stadium. Di Saunders, Oregon University System spokeswoman, told Inside Higher Ed that colleges are consulting legal counsel.

    Saunders also said the university system’s seven campuses are unanimous in opposition, with good reason: College kids are stupid.

    A study, performed in 2007 by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, found that nearly half of full-time college students abuse drugs or binge drink at least once a month. A study performed five years earlier by the Harvard School of Public Health found student gun owners are more likely to binge drink, drive drunk and use illegal drugs than students who do not own guns. It doesn’t take a third study to establish that firearms and drugs or alcohol is a terrifying combination.

    In a survey published in December 2009 in the Journal of American College Health, just 5 percent of college campus police chiefs said allowing students to carry concealed weapons would prevent campus killings. Another 86 percent disagreed, while 9 percent were uncertain.

    Of course, there are people who imagine they know better than real law enforcement. Gun rights supporters will insist the 86 percent of police chiefs are wrong. The gun lobby argues that shooters will choose gun-free campuses because they make easy targets. But this argument fails to consider how rare campus violence is.

    Yet another study, this one performed by the Department of Justice and published in 2005, found that 93 percent of violent crimes against college students occur off campus. On-campus shootings make huge headlines because they don’t actually happen all that often. The rarity of on-campus violence is probably, at least in part, due to campus policies that regulate firearms.

    Besides that, the relatively few campus shootings that occur are usually intended as murder-suicides, in which the goal is to take other people down before dying by gunfire. Campus shooters aren’t likely to be deterred by knowing the other people around them may also be armed if their goal is to get shot anyway.

    The safety of the college campus is in question; it’s the students, faculties and administrations of those campuses that should decide what’s best for them. The Oregon ruling lets gun enthusiasts play vigilante by putting college students at risk, and it sets a dangerous precedent for universities elsewhere.

    — Kristina Bui is the copy chief. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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