Exposed: The gun ban lobby's secret letter to college and university administrators

By Stephen J. Feltoon

Recently, a handful of people forwarded me a letter that was sent from the President of as well as Toby Hoover (Executive Director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence) and whose recipient is unknown because the address has been redacted. The content and context of the letter indicates that it was sent to a college in Ohio (more likely it was sent to ALL public colleges).

This letter warned of the gun lobby’s attempts to preempt public universities across the country, forcing their hands to allow concealed carry within their borders, and was laden with reasons why universities should oppose any legislation to allow this.

Claim #1: Arming Students Would Make Campuses More Dangerous Every Hour of Every Day

Deception. Misdirection. Those fighting to allow CCW on campus aren’t advocating arming individuals — they’re already armed! They’re already carrying, just not on campus. The letter also “reminded” universities that university students are more prone to binge drink, abuse drugs (both of which mainly occurs off-campus anyway), and are under higher levels of stress. Nevermind the fact that this paints ALL college students as irresponsible, always pushed to the breaking point. This reason is irrelevant, because the issue at hand isn’t about who should be allowed to purchase firearms; this isn’t an argument about keeping guns out of the hands of college students. Toby Hoover and the anti-gunners are free to petition the General Assembly to change the laws regarding firearm ownership, but as it stands now, college students that meet the necessary requirements can already purchase and carry firearms.

Claim #2: Armed Students Would Be Accountable to No One

I’m actually going to agree with the first half of their argument, which states that colleges have a duty to protect students and they may be liable if they fail to do so. Tell that to Virginia Tech and NIU! While college students (or anyone else who might be on a college campus) don’t have any sort of Internal Affairs Bureau like Police Departments have, they are held to the same standards as anyone who uses any other method with which to defend themselves—the law. Anytime a CCW licensee uses their firearm defensively, it is logical to assume that their actions will be scrutinized by the police and county prosecutor, and they should be held to the same standards as individuals who use firearms to protect themselves off-campus. It is the responsibility of every gun owner and concealed handgun licensee to ensure the laws as well as basic firearm safety rules are obeyed.

Claim #3: Arming Students Would Not Deter the Rare Campus Shooting

I’ll be the first one to say that, thankfully, campus shootings are few and far between. But they do happen. So do rapes, armed robberies, assaults, and other crimes where lethal defensive force would be prudent, and those crimes happen far more frequently than shootings do. I would also argue that CCW isn’t primarily utilized as a deterrence, but rather as a form of self-defense. While some choose pepper spray or a knife, others choose firearms. Would Toby Hoover and friends discourage learning how to disarm someone using martial arts because campus shootings are rare? Why do anti-gunners always feel the need to impose their way of thinking on the rest of us? Our choices don’t affect them, so why should theirs affect us?

Claim #4: Academic Debate Cannot Flourish In a Room Full of Guns

Tell that to Utah. Since 2006, Utah has been the only state to force public universities to allow concealed weapons on campus, and since then, the integrity of academic debates seems to have remained intact. Utah State University began this academic year with a student body of almost 15,100, so it would appear that Utah’s colleges aren’t being abandoned in fear. Looking closer to home, the Attorney General’s statistics on concealed carry licensing suggests that roughly 1% of Ohio’s population has a CCW license and data from other states echoes Ohio’s figures. Using this statistic, this means that in a college lecture hall of 200 people, you’d expect 2 to have their CCW licenses. The same holds true in large gatherings at malls or movie theaters. Is your movie-going experience somehow altered because a few people are (statistically) carrying concealed weapons (which, by definition, can’t be seen under normal conditions)? Of course not! They’re hidden! That’s like saying that academic debate cannot flourish because a student is wearing a profanity-laced t-shirt…under his/her jacket!

Claim #5: There Are Better Ways to Make College Campuses Safer

Sure there are. Parents, I’m sure you won’t mind paying higher tuitions so that guards (probably armed) can stand at metal detectors at every single entrance to every single building. Students, I’m sure you won’t mind being late to class because the security lines were so long and I know you won’t mind waiving your right against warrantless search and seizure so that the guards (probably armed) can go through your backpacks and purses to make sure you’re not carrying contraband. This movement is not about making college campuses safer. Call me cold-hearted or cowardly, but if there’s a shooting across campus, I’m not going to run half a mile (or more), kick in the door, and go searching for an active shooter. I carry to protect myself and those immediately around me; I want to make me safer.

A line from the show “West Wing” seems appropriate for this debate. A White House staffer tells her boss "in a free society, you don't need a reason to make something legal, you need a reason to make something illegal." The question you need to be asking your state representatives is: what makes college campuses so special, so unique, that the rights of adults should be restricted? Why is it ok that the state trusts licensees to carry in a crowded movie theater but not a crowded lecture hall? In a mall but not a student union? In a concert hall across the street from campus but not a concert hall on campus?

And the question you need to be asking the administrators of public universities who undoubtedly received this letter is: will you dare to take a stance on a political issue while running public universities using our tax dollars?

What and Toby Hoover failed to mention in their letter is that CCW is already legal in some manner (though universities are allowed to prohibit it) on the campuses of Michigan, Virginia, Colorado, Indiana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and yes even in gun-hating California (among others) and that, in my extensive search of the law, I cannot find a single statute prohibiting OPEN carry on Ohio’s campuses.

Suffice it to say that the letter, which be be downloaded in its entirety by clicking here, is full of the usual holes and misinformation that we are used to seeing from the opposition. Do us all a favor and make sure to educate the administrators of our public universities.

Stephen J. Feltoon is a 2007 graduate of Miami University and is leading the campaign to allow CCW on Ohio’s campuses.

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