BOV ban on firearms is a loaded issue

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October 3, 2011

11:34 PM

I strongly support the individual right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the Constitution, and I believe that law-abiding citizens should have the ability to purchase firearms for defense or recreation. However, I feel that firearms should not be allowed in certain places, and a building on a university campus such as the College of William and Mary is one of them.

The Board of Visitors recently passed a policy to prevent faculty members from carrying firearms in campus buildings, as the Faculty Handbook previously lacked a gun prohibition clause. Just last week, representatives from the National Rifle Association held an informational session at the College and part of their presentation focused on dispelling the myths of gun control. They briefly touched on the issue of concealed carry at colleges by stating that they supported it, while acknowledging that any action on the matter at present would be politically unfeasible.

It has been argued that a student’s First Amendment right to free speech is not lost when they step onto a college campus, so why should Second Amendment rights be any different? The right to free speech has limitations when it threatens public safety, as in the classic case of shouting fire in a crowded theater, so the right to bear arms should be restricted in certain circumstances.

The federal government already bans personal firearms from its facilities, offices and courthouses, as well as on all airplane flights. Most state governments also prohibit carrying guns into state buildings and public schools. Such bans are reasonable: Not only are such locations relatively contained, but there is usually a significant security presence, so allowing people to carry guns would increase the likelihood of an incident.
At worst, authorities could mistake someone carrying a concealed weapon as a potential threat and preemptively react.

Owning a gun for home protection is understandable; a gun owner has every right to defend his or her property from an intruder. However, a dorm room is not the property of the student and a classroom is not the property of the faculty member — the buildings are College property. Just as a homeowner has every right to bar visitors from bringing in guns, school administrators should dictate whether or not firearms can be brought into campus buildings. Furthermore, how exactly would guns be stored in a dorm room when not being carried around campus? Dormitories lack the privacy that a regular residence affords, and it would not be easy to secure a firearm in such a setting.

There is a reason why the people responsible for student safety — administration officials and campus police — support campus-wide gun bans. They want to ensure the safety of the people on campus. Gun rights groups and politicians who oppose such bans are not the ones responsible for campus safety and have no right to force schools to accept guns in school facilities.

So who will protect us if our lives are endangered? The College Police Department is always on call and response times are likely to be very rapid on the College’s small campus. The department should receive more funding for additional officers to increase patrols and cover a greater area of campus. The hours of training and safety courses that all officers undergo make them better suited to respond to violent incidents rather than armed citizens. The College already has an obligation to provide for the safety of students and employees, and it should have final say on the issue.

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