Heather’s Story

by Buckeyes for Concealed Carry on Campus

This piece about a friend of State Director Michael Newbern begins a series on how campus firearms bans effectively make students, faculty, and staff vulnerable off-campus. Contact us through our Facebook to share your story.

A friend of mine told me about a scare she had on her way home from Ohio State last night. She also wanted advice on carrying a handgun in her car and storing it in her car while on campus. My friend is an attractive, slightly smaller than average woman attending a professional school. She will receive a commission in the Army when she graduates and will move on to treat soldiers as a medical professional. She is an Ohio concealed handgun licensee and owns a .380 Smith & Wesson she keeps at home and takes with her when she travels.

Last night on her way home from school she experienced an encounter that has her shaken up a little bit and considering making carry part of her daily routine. She was driving home from a long day cooped up inside a school building and enjoying the nice weather with her windows down. She noticed a strange male in his 40s walking toward her car at a stoplight and acting erratic. She rolled up her window once he tried to engage her and picked up her phone acting like she was on a call. If she ignored him, she thought, he would go away.

He didn’t. Instead, he hit the hood of her car to get her attention and tried to speak with her. When he figured out she wasn’t interested, he wrote something on a piece of paper as she pulled away. It was clear he wasn’t interested in giving her a note.

But the danger may not have ended that night.

“What could he have written down?” she asked me. “You don’t think he wrote down my license plate number? Can he find out where I live with my license plate number?”

“If he knows a dirty cop, he can,” I told her. I think that shook her. You could hear a pin drop after I said that.

She expressed concern about being stalked. What if he followed her home or waited for her to arrive after breaking in? What if he got to her on her five or ten minute walk to or from her parked during a normal long day at school? What if he followed her to the grocery store on her way home from school? How could she defend herself? The conversation quickly turned to self-defense using her Smith & Wesson .380.

“I know I can carry a gun in my car,” she said. “I know I can’t carry onto campus, but can I keep it in my car when I park on campus?”

And there is the real real crux of her inquiry.

The magic bubble that is Ohio State’s campus provides a certain false sense of security. However, nearly everybody realizes off-campus is nowhere near as safe. Even Ohio State’s administration realizes the areas adjacent to campus are dangerous.

Chief Denton, Ohio State’s Chief of Police, has said on more than one occasion that guns wouldn’t make campus safe. When pressed with the conditions off-campus he points out that carry off-campus is permitted even by students. Gordon Gee, Ohio State President, appointed a task force to address crime off-campus. The task force established the Buckeye Block Watch and vowed to work with landlords to increase safety in the area. What Chief Denton, President Gee, and the task force failed to address is how a campus carry ban disarms students off-campus as well. That is exactly the situation my friend is in.

Ohio Revised Code 2923.126(B)(5) states that:

“a valid license does not authorize the licensee to carry a concealed handgun into any premises owned or leased by any public or private college, university, or other institution of higher education, unless the handgun is in a locked motor vehicle or the licensee is in the immediate process of placing the handgun in a locked motor vehicle.”

The student that walks to school from his or her home in the University District is disarmed the entire time he or she is away from home. There are no lockers we can store our firearms in along High Street. We can’t just magically make a firearm appear out of thin air either.

Even though Ohio Revised Code specifically allows firearm possession on campus, Ohio State says, “No how, no way, not ever.”

However, the student that commutes, like my friend, does have a locker. The vehicle that she uses to transport herself and her books to and from campus can be used to secure the firearm when she is in class.  She can use a lockbox to store it in her car securing it from the sticky hands of a thief.  Ohio Revised Code even specifically allows storage of the firearm in a vehicle while on campus.

The hiccup is Ohio State’s firearms policy governing all students. Ohio State’s Code of Student Conduct 3335-23-04(E) states that following is prohibited:

“Storage, or possession of dangerous weapons, devices, or substances including, but not limited to, firearms, ammunition or fireworks, unless authorized by an appropriate university official or permitted by a university policy, even if otherwise permitted by law. Use or misuse of weapons, devices, or substances in a manner that causes or threatens serious harm to the safety or security of others.”

Notice the little blurb where firearms are not permitted on campus at all “even where otherwise permitted by law,” unless of course “an appropriate university official” or policy gives you permission. Multiple requests to store a firearm in a vehicle as authorized by Ohio Revised Code by me and other students I have come to know have been denied. The only time a student is authorized by the university to possess a firearm is on the ROTC range.

Violating university policy to ensure her safety may ruin her life.

Students won’t face legal action for keeping a handgun in a car. However a student could face administrative sanctions from the university including expulsion. Expulsion from Ohio State for a firearms related incident carries severe consequences for a law-abiding student. That blemish on an academic record can virtually guarantee the disciplined student will never earn an accredited degree.

For my friend, it could mean the end of a career as medical professional a year before she even started. It could mean mountains of debt with no way to earn an income large enough to pay it back. It could mean a loss of her commission and an otherwise promising career as an Army officer. Expulsion from school could significantly alter her life in a negative way forever.

An encounter with a violent criminal could also change her life forever and may very well end it. With a firearm she would at least have a sporting chance. Without one she is at his mercy. Even with copious amounts of pepper spray and a swift kick, odds are in his favor.

So now, she must decide. Does she risk her career and take effective measures to defend herself or does she hope and pray he never victimizes her and throw herself on his mercy if he does. That’s a fine predicament she’s in thanks to a scary encounter, the state of Ohio, and Ohio State Board of Trustees. A fine predicament indeed.

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