By Chris | May 17, 2008
In the wake of recent school shootings, a group on campus has been petitioning the university to allow students to conceal and carry hand guns on campus. I have never owned a gun but have shot guns with a number of friends. A fellow economics major at Idaho took me out one afternoon to shoot pop cans with his AK-47. As exhilarating as it was to blow shards of coke cans 15 feet in the air, I have a hard time justifying their legality. I highly doubt that the legal benefits of assault weapons come anywhere close to eclipsing the lives that such weapons can so efficiently destroy. I was in Moscow, ID this past summer when a man with an AK-47 showered downtown with bullets, killing a police officer and a church caretaker, injuring a student and finally taking his own life.
While it may be efficient to ban assault weapons, it makes little sense to me to ban concealed guns on campus when they are allowed everywhere else. The classroom is quite vulnerable to would be attackers. Buildings on college campuses are spread out and lecture halls are large. Campus police are too few in number and too dispersed to stop an attack before it is too late. Of course campus shootings are extremely rare. However, violence on campus isn’t. While I was at the University of Minnesota, a string of senseless beatings prompted the graduate and professional association to request UMN’s gun ban be removed. I see the costs and benefits of allowing guns on campus as the following:
- Mitigates the loss of life due to a random student rampage (presumably armed students will protect themselves and others)
- Increases the costs of rational criminals who seek to assault or rob students on campus
- Increases the probability that minor conflicts on campus escalate into deadly outcomes
- Increases the likelihood of accidental shooting (inebriated students and guns are not a good combination)
It is difficult to assess the psychological effects of a ban. Some people will feel protected and others will simply be constantly reminded at the fragile, vulnerable nature of life. However, I think that overall the benefits outweigh the costs. Fights rarely take place on campus so it seems unlikely that removing a gun ban will result in the escalation of many skirmishes to fatal outcomes. It would be more appropriate to ban guns in bars. Accidental gun deaths are more likely. But, I doubt accidental deaths would outweigh the deterrent and cost mitigating benefits of guns. I’d be interested to see the data on accidental gun deaths on campuses that allow their possession.