03/01/2011 01:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Packing Heat at College

When your children go to college what do you pack to send with them?

You probably include their clothing, some sheets and towels, a laptop computer and maybe a small refrigerator or microwave.

But, how about a gun?

Don't be shocked. It's not that far-fetched. And guns could be coming to a college campus near you.

In the aftermath of several campus shootings in recent years and the gun fueled violence in Arizona that killed 6, wounded 13 and incapacitated Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, there is a movement to give college students and their professors the right to carry weapons onto campus.

It is already the law in Utah where students at all public colleges are allowed to carry a concealed gun if they have the proper permit. And, in Colorado several colleges have taken advantage of a state law giving them the option of allowing licensed handguns in class, several other institutions of higher learning there are also considering it. Similar measures have been proposed in about a dozen other states. There is almost always opposition to the idea.

But in Texas, which has more than half a million college students at any given time, lawmakers seem ready to pass their version of a guns-on-campus bill that sponsors say will help keep the peace in places where students are trying to learn. They believe the best defense against another out-of-control campus gunman killing innocents is armed students and professors who can shoot back and stop the carnage.

Naturally, that's a point of white hot debate.

On one side are those who think guns are the last thing you want to introduce into a college setting rife with academic pressures, romantic entanglements, competitive sports and the universal experimentation with alcohol and drugs. A Los Angeles Times editorial opined recently: "Adding firearms to this volatile mix is a spectacularly bad idea; guns are indeed tools of self-defense, but they're also tools of suicide, accidental shootings, intimidation and murder."

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, named for former presidential press secretary Jim Brady who nearly lost his life in 1981 when an assassin opened fire on his boss, Ronald Reagan, stands firmly against the idea of weapons on campus. An organizations rep says, "The college age years -- 18-24 -- are the peak years for engaging in gun crimes, abusing drugs and alcohol, attempting suicide, and having other mental health problems. A binge-drinking, drug-using student is dangerous enough; let's not give him or her a gun."

Here's the other side. The lawmaker who proposed the pending bill in Texas is state Senator Jeff Wentworth. He recently told MSNBC host Chris Matthews that he was wrong in his assumptions about the bill.

"It's not college kids carrying concealed weapons on campus. In Texas, the law requires you to be at least 21 years of age to get a license," Wentworth said. The concealed weapons law will be, "mainly for members of the facility, staff, graduate students and a few seniors" to protect the rest of the "unarmed, defenseless and vulnerable" students should someone come on campus and start shooting.

Wentworth was questioned repeatedly about mixing guns with students using alcohol. What about an armed student carrying a gun into a campus bar? Impossible, he said, "We don't have bars on (public university) campuses. That's the law in Texas."

What would happen if a student decided to take a weapon to a hotly contested football or other type of athletic contest? "That's not allowed under this bill," the senator said.

Remembering the 2007 slaughter in Virginia where 32 students were killed Wentworth calmly said, "I don't ever want to see repeated on a Texas college campus what happened at Virginia Tech, where some deranged, suicidal madman goes into a building and is able to pick off totally defenseless kids like sitting ducks."

Truth be told I'd like to see all guns -- from small handguns and glocks to rifles and semi-automatic types -- melted down and used for scrap.

Tra-la-lah! Wouldn't it be a wonderful world that found no need for guns at all? My logical brain tells me that is never going to happen.

So, the question becomes do we run the risk of regulating gun ownership so much that the responsible people among us decide it isn't worth the hassle of multiple classes, training sessions and big fees to get a license? When that happens only police and the bad guys will have guns. And as we all know the police can't be everywhere.

Dependable Americans with permits already carry their weapons into shopping malls, banks, churches and grocery stores among countless other places every day. Why should a university campus be any different?

Final facts to ponder: A group called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus reports that over 70 American campuses currently allow licensed guns. There hasn't been a single reported instance of shoot-outs, accidents or heated confrontations with a gun involved at any of them. In fact, statistics show the crime rate at Colorado State University has gone steadily down since concealed carry was enacted.

Diane Dimond can be reached through her web site: Her latest book is Cirque Du Salahi, available at