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May 12, 2008

Opinion: Keep campus clear of guns

The University of Louisiana System Council of Presidents and Faculty Advisory Council both passed resolutions in opposition to House Bill 199, proposed legislation that would allow concealed weapons to be carried on college and university campuses. The resolutions follow the lead of the statewide Council of Student Body Presidents, which passed a similar resolution.

No-tolerance policy works
Dr. James E. Cofer Sr., ULM President

The University of Louisiana at Monroe is a sanctum for learning; we help our students gain knowledge and confidence inside and outside the classroom. Our university is a place where scholars and students freely exchange ideas in a safe environment. Proposed House Bill199, which would allow concealed weapons on campus, threatens that safety.

We know that a university community reflects modern society and all of its troubles. Our university family was extremely saddened to learn of the tragic campus violence during the past year.

Our university is not immune to society's challenges; however, we are distinctly different than the world beyond our campus. Historically and statistically speaking, university campuses are significantly safer than their surrounding communities. The reason is simple: Universities strictly control firearms. Only university police officers — who are highly trained in every possible emergency — are allowed to possess weapons.

Proponents of HB 199 argue that concealed weapons deter campus violence.

Research proves the opposite is true. Jon Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy, succinctly stated in Christian Science Monitor, "The best science we have says concealed carry laws do not save lives." In the unlikely event of an active campus shooter, a person without the sound judgment and skill possessed by police officers may kill innocent professors and students in the crossfire of an attempted intervention. At the very least, no student, staff member or professor should ever have to worry about the hidden threat of a concealed weapon on campus.

Our institution assumes the responsibility of keeping our employees and our students on campus safe. That is our vow to the parents who leave their children in our care and to the faculty and staff who work at our university. Sophisticated security enhancements, a no-tolerance policy regarding violence and highly trained police officers help us keep that promise. HB 199 takes it away.

We choose the high road
Dr. C. Turner Steckline, ULM Faculty Senate President

Banning concealed weapons on campus, with the exception of law officials, is a rational response to irrational behavior made in the interests of keeping our campus safe and secure for our students, faculty, staff, visitors and members of the community.

At the very least, our stance, which vehemently opposes HB 199, asks legislators to recognize that campuses possess unique pressure-cooker environments that do not need to encourage weaponry as a school supply or personal appendage like cell phones have become for many.

If you don't have a gun with you, you can't use it. While campus shootings are rare, the media's portrayal of violence as a solution or as a method of coping with violence is not rare, and it just makes sense to deduct that people sometimes behave as they have observed others doing. Ultimately our opposition to HB199 is symbolic and expressive of our desire to be, keep and stay safe.

Bill fans mistrust
Brady Middleton, ULM Student Government Association President

A recent bill in Utah allows students 21 or older who have permits to carry guns on campus and in classrooms. Utah has half of the overall population of Louisiana, half of the college campuses and an entirely different culture.

Utah's bill gives university presidents the right to veto the bill on their respective campuses. This clause is not a part of the present bill in our legislature.

The more opportunity that you give for something bad to happen, the more likely it will.

The students who argue for this bill say their rights are being infringed upon, but these are rights they've never experienced.

The purpose of every educational institution is to provide the best education possible in an environment that is both positive and safe. After speaking with more than 300 students about this issue, the consensus of our campus is that the inclusion of additional firearms on our campus would create a negative and intimidating atmosphere to the classroom and to the campus.

More students would be afraid to attend class if they knew that their classmates were potentially carrying firearms. This would lead to a larger number of students skipping class and lower enrollment numbers.

The passing of this bill would deter additional professors from moving to Louisiana to teach at our universities.

Our goal as an institution of higher education is to provide the best possible education to our students.

I do not believe we could draw in academically recognized professors if this bill passes.

In addition, I strongly believe this bill will be coupled with an additional bill requiring/encouraging university professors to obtain their CCW license for protection from their students.

This is an issue I'm very passionate about.

I pray this bill doesn't pass.

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