The Oregon Board of Higher Education's decision to prohibit firearms on campus went into effect last Friday immediately after approval. The policy applies to all universities within the Oregon University System; all persons entering campus -- whether students, employees or sporting event attendees -- cannot carry a concealed weapon.
While that thought would seem to be conventional wisdom, it wasn't until late last week that it became official. And it's about time.
Guns have no place on campus. Besides security officers, no one should be concerned with personal safety to a point where a concealed weapon becomes necessary.
Certainly, in hindsight, we may wish someone had a weapon on hand to deal with outbreaks of violence, such as the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, which resulted in 32 victims. Some believe if one of the individuals had a weapon, it may have ended differently.
But this is all in retrospect. Allowing individuals to carry guns on campus, today, among our peers and faculty, would hardly seem like the "safe" decision. Few in the campus community are qualified to handle firearms, and we should never bypass law enforcement's duty to keep the campus safe, choosing instead to hand it to the public to deal with on their own.
Besides, arguing that armed citizens could thwart potential shootings assumes a majority of the campus community chooses to carry a concealed weapon. This policy isn't de-arming the majority of campus attendees; in fact, the new rules hardly apply to most of the student body and faculty.
Considering this, the policy's exception for law enforcement officers, U.S. military program participants (for instance, ROTC) and student clubs, such as the pistol club, seems to be a fair reservation for maintaining an atmosphere of safety on campus. The few who will be allowed to hold firearms -- those qualified to do so -- is the only protection the campus community needs.
However, this policy also allows individuals with concealed weapon permits to pass through campus, as long as they never step foot into a building owned by the university -- a major flaw when monitoring and enforcing these rules. Someone may claim to be passing through campus when they are in fact heading to a class.
Moreover, an individual with a concealed weapon permit is just as likely to be the offender in a school shooting as someone with no past experience with firearms. We can't ban criminal minds from campus, but we can ban the weapon -- besides this permit exception, the policy does just that.
Protecting against gun violence by allowing the public to carry guns doesn't make much sense. We shouldn't assume a campus-wide ban on guns takes that many firearms from the sane, safe and qualified-to-handle persons and in turn allows the unstable and aggressive individuals from carrying out an act of violence without any opposition. It assumes the daily trip to campus as a high-risk situation where an armed public is crucial, rather than just an armed security force.
Ultimately, the policy hasn't made the campus less safe, only less risky. The fundamental reason for a campus-wide ban on firearms is to keep as few firearms on campus as possible -- a preventative policy. In theory, these new rules do just that.
No one should regret banning concealed guns on campus. We can only regret keeping them concealed.
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