Why We Need Legal Campus Carry

This article was written as an introductory article/op-ed by Michael Newbern when Buckeyes for Concealed Carry initially formed in November of 2011.

In recent weeks, twelve Ohio State students have reported being victims of violent crimes in areas surrounding campus. OSU Police Chief Paul Denton is quoted in “Timely Warnings from police increase, students react” telling The Lantern that he has “not seen a spike in crime on campus.” A quick check of UCrime.com uncovers data to support Chief Denton’s claim, at least in the categories of crimes violent in nature. In the 30 day period ending on November 6, 2011 there were 6 reported crimes on campus compared to 7 in the previous year for the same period.

However, few students stay on campus all day every day. The crimes addressed in the article took place off campus. A look at crime off campus is more appropriate. The difference can be shocking.

CrimeReports.com, the tool that the Columbus Police Department uses to disseminate crime data to the public, shows 71 violent crimes (homicides, robberies, and assault both sexual and non-sexual) in the University District during the 30 day period ending November 6, 2011. Data for the previous year is not available. That’s more than TEN times the crime on campus in areas where many students live and play. The Short North District saw 40 violent crimes and the Old North District saw 23 during the same time period.

Clearly of all areas near campus accessible by foot or a short bus/cab ride, the University District is the most dangerous. Why are students east of High Street targeted over patrons and residents of the Short North or Old North districts? The answer lies in victim selection.

The University District is a target rich environment. Students often walk the area alone during poor light conditions paying little attention to their surroundings while in the possession of valuable items such as laptops or other high tech devices. This is after all for a lot of students the first time in their lives they’ve been in such a large city let alone living away from home. People in the Short North and Old North Districts tend to be a little more seasoned and take precautions students often overlook.

However, there is one glaring difference between students and residents of the Short North and Old North Districts many do not consider. This difference is also the reason that Ohio State’s 23,000 faculty and staff are targeted. Residents of the Short North and Old North districts are permitted to exercise their constitutional right to carry firearms while students, faculty, and staff are legislated defenseless against criminals with campus firearm bans. The concept that banning firearms on campus makes campus safer is flawed logic in itself and completely fails to recognize that students, faculty, and staff are also disarmed off campus as a result.

Students, faculty, and staff walking to campus from their homes or vehicles do so without a firearm because once they cross high street possession of a firearm is illegal and violation of university policy. They also walk from campus without a firearm for the same reason. The ability for Ohio State’s students, faculty, and staff to meet an attacker with equal or greater force in their defense is denied at a time when they are most vulnerable.

Criminals understand this fact and use it to their advantage during the victim selection process. Economist Dr John Lott’s research over the past fifteen years published in now the third edition of his book More Guns Less Crime confirms that violent crime rates are higher in areas where firearm ownership and carry laws are strict  than in areas with relaxed laws. The FBI recently reported that nationwide we have experienced a downward trend in violent crime. This downward trend has occurred in spite of a poor economy often attributed to higher crime rates. That this trend has followed relaxed state restrictions on firearm ownership and carry is no coincidence.

Crime is a risky business and criminals do not like to get hurt. This is why they choose their targets with care. Criminals fear armed citizens. In fact, criminals fear armed citizens more than they do the police. Research conducted by Professors James Wright and Peter Rossi for a landmark study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice points to the armed citizen or the threat of the armed citizen as possibly the most effective deterrent to crime in the nation. Wright and Rossi questioned over 1,800 felons serving time in prisons across the nation and found that 85% agreed that the “smart criminal” will attempt to find out if a potential victim is armed, 75% felt that burglars avoided occupied dwellings for fear of being shot, 53% did not commit a specific crime for fear that the victim was armed, 57% of “handgun predators” were scared off or shot at by an armed victim, and 60% felt that the typical criminal feared being shot by citizens more than he feared being shot by the police.

Extend this thought process to a situation in which a criminal unknowingly targets an armed citizen and one could conclude that a criminal will move onto another target when presented with a victim who can match or exceed the criminal’s force. Gary Kleck, PhD writes in his book, Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control (Social Institutions and Social Change), that his research finds “only 3% of criminal gun assaults involves anyone actually being wounded, even nonfatally, and the same is true of defensive gun uses. More commonly, guns are merely pointed at another person, or perhaps only referred to (‘I’ve got a gun’) or displayed, and this is sufficient to accomplish the ends of the user, whether criminal or non-criminal.”

The idea that armed citizens will wound innocent bystanders in while defending themselves is also not supported by statistics. Criminologist Gary Kleck determined that firearms are used in self-defense 1 million times per year. A wound rate of 3% indicates that 30,000 of those incidents resulted in injury or death. Less than 0.01% of those incidents resulted in a completely innocent bystander being injured.

Furthermore, the argument that a stray bullet is likely to hit an innocent bystander when a firearm is discharged by an ill-experienced shooter in self defense spits in the face of the things those opposed to campus carry tell us to do to be safe. Walking in groups in well lit areas is great advice indeed. The fact is that criminals statistically victimize people when they are alone and cries for help will go largely unanswered. The very things they will tell us to do to as an alternative to “relying on firearms” exploits the fact that other people aren’t in the near vicinity and dispels the myth that innocent people can be hit by self-defensive stray bullets.

The students, faculty, and staff that are licensed to carry a concealed handgun in Ohio obtained said license with considerable effort. They submitted to an extensive FBI background check to ensure a record clean of felonies, violent and/or drug related misdemeanors, mental defective adjudications, and active criminal protection orders. They took a state mandated 12 hour National Rifle Association firearms safety course and passed the competency testing subsequent to the course.  Licensees in Ohio must also be older than 21.

These licensees have proven they desire to abide by the law. Statistics published by the Texas Department of Public Safety and Department of State Health Services have found that concealed handgun licensees obey the law. During 2009, 101 of the 65,561 (0.1514%) crime convictions were comprised of licensees. The 101 convictions comprised 0.025% of the 402,914 licensees in Texas. In comparison, the remaining 65,460 convictions comprised 0.392% of the 16,671,565 unlicensed Texans 21 years or older, the minimum age required to obtain a concealed handgun license. Non-licensees were convicted of crimes at a rate nearly 16 times higher than licensees.

We already allow 6 million licensees in 49 states to carry a concealed handgun in many other non-secure locations outside of campus and have yet to realize any of the “blood in the streets” predictions. Most recently in Ohio, we entrusted these people with carrying concealed handguns in liquor serving establishments and have still yet to see “blood in the streets.” Are concealed handgun licensees less trustworthy on a college campus?

We trust our faculty with overseeing the development of some of the brightest minds in Ohio, as well as from areas all across the nation and the globe. We trust them so much that many of them earn in excess of $100,000 per year. Are they less trustworthy with a concealed handgun for self defense?

Lawful campus concealed carry will not make campus less safe. Campus crime statistics in states that allow campus carry does not support this claim. There are 70 universities and technical colleges allowing concealed carry on 220 campuses in Michigan, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Virginia and Mississippi. These campuses have a combined student population of ½ million. Add in faculty and staff and there are ¾ of a million people living, working, and playing on campuses allowing concealed carry. None of these campuses have experienced a single incident of gun violence (including threats and suicides), a single gun accident injuring innocent people, or a single gun theft as a result.

Are Buckeyes less responsible? It is time we treat our students, faculty, and staff that possess a concealed handgun license like the responsible citizens they are and allow them the right to carry that defensive tool on Ohio State’s campus.  It is time we remove campus carry restrictions both by law and university policy. Failure to do so demonstrates that we value the safety of criminals over that of our brightest young minds, those that engage them intellectually, and those that support the operations of the environment in which they learn.