Central State University Pre-Law School Day - HB256 Guns on college campus debate

by Larry S. Moore

Governor Kasich signs Ohio Restaurant Carry Bill
From left: Rep. Clayton Luckie and Larry S. Moore
(photo courtesy of Central State University)

The Third Annual Central State University Constitution/Pre-Law Day was held Sept 15 at the College of Education and Natural Sciences. It was quite an eventful day. The activities included various law colleges on hand to speak with the pre-law program students regarding their programs. The next activity was very important to the pre-law program at CSU as agreements were signed with four additional law schools. This provides the students more opportunity to enter law school following graduation from CSU. The final phase was the debate on HB256 (Rep. John Adams) which will allow concealed carry on college campuses and also allow concealed carry without a license for persons not otherwise prohibited.

I represented the affirmative side while the opposition side was taken by State Representative Clayton Luckie (D-Dayton). Rep. Luckie has a 100% anti-gun voting record during his service in the Ohio House.

Each of us was given five-minutes for opening statements with the affirmative presenting first:

I want to thank Mr. Williams and Central State University for hosting this important discussion. I'm am flattered to be asked to debate the issue. I hope to present some different viewpoints and challenge conventional thinking. I'm confident the feedback I receive will be informative and educational.

Rep. Adams' HB 256 addresses two areas of Ohio's gun laws. They are permitting carry on college campuses for the concealed handgun license holder and allowing concealed carry without a license by those not otherwise prohibited.

The right of self defense is a civil right. The gun issue is often viewed as a Constitutional issue or a public safety issue. However, in my view, it comes down to a civil rights issue. Without my right of self-defense I may not be able to enjoy the God-given rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. As a law abiding citizen, why should my civil rights be restricted by the State of Ohio?

Today there are guns on campuses across our nation. To believe otherwise is naïve or denial. Some of those guns are legally on campus and others are not. The question is who has the guns and why? Crime reports from campuses across Ohio indicate that those guns are currently in the hands of those with criminal intentions.

The Ohio concealed handgun license holder (CHL) can bring a concealed handgun onto campus but must leave it in their vehicle where it could be stolen and fall into the wrong hands. This says to me that I'm fine with my gun outside but not inside. How do I change by simply entering a building? Walking through any building doesn't qualify me for a degree. A criminal walking onto campus doesn't suddenly become law abiding and leave their gun because of some law or sign. Why does walking into a building disqualify my concealed handgun license?

Indeed there is a reason for campus security and police forces. There is crime on every campus. Campus police, like all first responders, generally show up to take reports and clean up the mess. Rarely do they ever prevent an attack. Campus crime alerts are issued on a regular basis. Attacks have recently occurred at Wright State, UD, OSU and even Capital University.

In the case of Castle Rock v. Gonzales, (2005) the Supreme Court found that Jessica Gonzales did not have a constitutional right to police protection even in the presence of a restraining order. The police have an obligation only to protect society as a whole. That leaves any immediate protection to the individual. I've chosen to take my personal protection seriously. Part of that is to have the first CHL issued in Greene County by Sheriff Fischer. However, I cannot adequately protect myself in those areas where the State has denied my right.

We should be examining all other areas that are currently off limits. These off limit areas amount to "victim zones." Workers at many campuses are left nearly defenseless when walking from the buildings to parking areas. What does this tell us? Are laws and signs banning guns and legal concealed carry really protecting anyone? I think not. We may actually be less safe in areas where guns are banned.

The laws forbidding carry into college buildings, as well as other areas, should be lifted. The rights of the people should be recognized. Those choosing to assume responsibility for the protection of themselves and their families should have the freedom to do so.

HB 256 would also permit concealed carry without a license. Ohio's gun laws discriminate against the poor in our society. It costs money to receive the state mandated training, provide photos and pay the application fees for a CHL. We hear about those in our society forced to choose between food and medication.

What about their choice and freedom for self-defense outside the home? Without sufficient money, they have no legal means of self-defense once outside the home.

Increasingly these people are trapped in inner cities where crime is high and gang activity is rampant. The poor and elderly are often targeted by the criminal. Ohio's discriminatory gun laws ensure they remain victims.

Historically gun control and slavery have been intertwined. In 1715 King George I issued the proclamation stating, in part: "Be it enacted that no Negros or other slave within province shall be permitted to carry any gun or any other offensive weapon from off their masters land without license from their said master;."

Gun control was about keeping guns out of the hands of certain classes of people following the Civil War. The first "Saturday night special" laws banning cheap concealable handguns followed.

Ohio's concealed carry law requiring a licensing process and fees to obtain permission from the state to carry a handgun effectively denies the right of self-defense to certain classes of society. The state should be protecting and expanding our civil rights not denying them. The law abiding citizen should have the ability of self-defense without applying to the state for that right.

Representative Luckie responded explaining that there are wants, needs and rights in life. A balance is needed between these and on the limits of our rights. Rights don't mean the ability to pull a gun when someone offends you. Rights have boundaries. Rep. Luckie concluded that on our public owned college campuses there is no place for guns. College campuses are institutions of education. Our young people need a safe environment for learning without being concerned about safety. Ohio's college campuses do not need to become the Wild West, hood or ghetto with guns blazing and shootings.

When presented with the first cross examination question (see attached) Rep. Luckie noted that there are significant differences in the military protecting the United States against terrorism and allowing guns on campus. He noted that he didn't think he could see any terrorist in the room. Fortunately, he was right about that as the room was full of professors and students. There were also no disgruntled students, upset facility or recently fired staff to present a threat.

His theme throughout the debate clearly represented the view that he is only comfortable with properly trained, thoroughly background checked and mental health evaluated law enforcement professionals having firearms. While he acknowledged that in some areas the use of firearms, shooting and hunting is fine, there is clearly no need for guns in our inner cities and most certainly not on campus.

I pointed out that there is crime on campus. Perhaps other institutions have more issues than CSU due to their surroundings within city limits. This is clearly noted by the news media and the various campus alerts that have been issued across our state. Alerts are only issued once an assault or other crime is reported. Adults should have the right to defend themselves. My opening statement emphasized that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that law enforcement does not have any duty to protect an individual but rather society as a whole.

Rep. Luckie noted that guns cause crime rather than stopping crime. He repeated several times that he is working with a number of constituents attempting to get their records expunged due to irresponsible actions when they were young college age people. These actions stay with them for a lifetime. Guns will only result in more issues and possibly end up making a young person a felon. Rep. Luckie stressed that picking up a gun is not like playing a video game. You don't get to press a restart button where the players simply get up and start the game over. He noted that the issues the young people encounter by pulling guns stay with them a long time.

Rep. Luckie, I couldn't agree more that life is not a video game. Concealed carry license holders and advocates fully understand the seriousness of pulling our handgun. We also fully understand that when faced with a deadly situation and fear for our lives, we may not get the opportunity to "push the restart button" on our lives either. Unlike the young person who picks up a gun and becomes the aggressor, we are not the aggressor. We do not wish to rob or assault anyone. We simply want to go about our business without becoming a victim. I pointed out that just because I have jumper cables, a fire extinguisher and first aid kit in my truck doesn't mean that I'm hoping for a dead battery, fire or to have some accident. It only means that I am better prepared to deal with the situation should it occur. The same is true for carrying my handgun.

Of course no debate about guns on campus is complete without the mention of Virginia Tech. That was brought up in the course of the audience questions. Rep. Luckie noted that the gun was illegal and the shooter (Seung-Hui Cho) shouldn't have been allowed to purchase the gun. I pointed out that the firearms were legally purchased through the background check system and he waited to avoid any "one gun per month" laws. Rep. Luckie responded that it should be illegal and mental health background checks required. I noted that Cho had been in the eyes of mental health professionals and had faced some possible charges. But nothing was charged and no follow-up done.

I pressed on with the Appalachian Law School Shooting noting that it was stopped by civilians who ran to their vehicles to retrieve their handguns which they had a license to carry. That while retrieving the guns the shooter remained loose to wreck havoc. The citizen heroes subdued the shooter. The presence of no gun zones and our attempts to create "safe havens for learning" in far too many instances have simply created killing zones.

CSU President John W. Garland noted that he has a concern about guns being properly secured. How are guns to be stored on campus? Will students leave their backpacks and their guns where someone, who is not trained or familiar with firearms, will pick them up? These are valid concerns for school administrators. Unfortunately we know that guns occasionally get left where they should not. This frequently happens when police are the ones who leave guns or lose track of their weapons. The best place for my concealed handgun is always on my person and in my holster where it is secure but available.

The debate went pretty much as I expected. I wasn't interested in changing Rep. Luckie's mind about guns or concealed carry. Based on his 100% anti-gun voting record, I knew that wasn't going to happen. To be fair, nothing Rep. Luckie could say would change my mind regarding freedom, the Second Amendment and concealed carry. CSU leadership predicted a lively debate. It was certainly that even though Rep. Luckie was somewhat stuck on the old and tired Wild West shootout theme. Hopefully I provided enough facts and other information to cause the students to form their opinions. I thank CSU for holding the debate. Hopefully, it is only the first of many as we work to expand the right to carry onto our college campuses.

Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a long-time volunteer leader for Buckeye Firearms Foundation and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award, the 2007 League of Ohio Sportsmen/Ohio Wildlife Federation Hunter Educator of the Year and the 2010 National Wild Turkey Federation/ Women in the Outdoors Hunter Education Instructor of the Year.

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