As gun control has become a major political topic within the past few years and mass shootings have rocked the nation from movie theaters to elementary schools, college campuses are questioning whether individuals should be allowed to carry within school zones. For everyone’s safety, they shouldn’t.
The Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995, California Penal Code 626.9 PC, prohibits the possession of firearms within school zones, unless written permission is granted from “the school district superintendent, his or her designee, or equivalent school authority.”
As one can surmise, this act means an individual cannot be in possession of a firearm within a school zone unless granted written permission from a school authority (in this case Palomar College’s President or Chief of Police) and it pertains only to concealed carry weapon (CCW) permit holders.
Now gun-free school zones can make logical sense to many especially when taking into account the devastating occurrences where individuals have gone on shooting rampages in recent years and murdered many innocent victims with a firearm.
We see recent cases of this in May 2014 at UC Santa Barbara, where 19 men and women were either killed or injured during a shooting spree. High profile shootings in recent years such as Virginia Tech in 2007, where 49 men and women were either killed or injured and at Northern Illinois University in 2008 where 26 men and women were either killed or injured. These events shows how a tragedy on a university campus can affect the whole nation and where stricter gun laws can come into question.
However, when we look closer to home, specifically California community colleges, again we see these same occurrences.
In Jan. 2014, a man was shot and killed in the parking lot of Los Angeles Valley College, according to the Los Angeles Times. In a CNN report from June 2013, a shooting spree at Santa Monica College resulted in the death of four individuals.
Now even with all these cases of gun shootings, the concern is with the allowance of CCW on college campuses.
One of the biggest concerns is the sight of a CCW on a college campus. Even though concealed, an individual with a CCW runs the risk of any individual witnessing the possession of a firearm, whether that may be from a quick body shift of garments or the observable view within someone’s bag, the concern of the viewer will go straight to the fear of the above cases.
This fear, according to an article in the International Human Press by Alex Mesoudi PhD, results from the media frenzy over mass gun shootings and the fear of a copycat shooter. Someone witnessing another individual in possession of a concealed weapon can spur this fear and result in a widespread campus panic.
This type of panic was recently showcased when California State University San Marcos was temporarily locked down due to witness reports of a man carrying what appeared to be a shotgun in August 2014. According to U-T San Diego, the weapon was actually an umbrella after city sheriff’s deputies made contact with the individual and the lockdown was lifted.
When interviewed by a Telescope staff writer, Palomar College Chief of Police, Mark DiMiaggio, said he would like to prevent a campus panic like the one that occurred just a few miles away from the community college campus.
There are provisions within the penal code that allow individuals who are gung-ho for their Second Amendment rights to bear arms on California college campuses. The provision is for those CCW owners to keep the firearm locked and unloaded in the trunk of ones car or lock box pursuant to Penal Code Section 25610. As well as those who feel there is a clear and present danger toward themselves.
According to an article by The Guardian, individuals in possession of a firearm are 4.5 times more likely to be shot than those who don’t carry at all. On top of this, an article from the Chicago Tribune presents a study that links a greater risk of a shooting near liquor stores and bars where individuals are mixing the influence of alcohol in volatile environments rich with heavy emotions.
College can be a stressful environment with the pressure of making grades, student loan debt, and an increased prevalence of anxiety and depression. Adding concealed weapons into the mix can create a hostile and dangerous environment that stifles the inherent intent of college: to feel safe amongst your peers when receiving an education you paid for to hopefully have a better future.
CCW permit owners can always take a shot with the Chief of Police or college president to hear out their case as to why they need their firearm with them amongst there unarmed peers.
College can be stressful enough; lets keep unneeded firearms away from college campuses and with the trained peace officers that look out for student’s safety.
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