Campus Carry: A Discussion
By Douglas Ciampi '19
Washington and Lee, like the country at large, is in the midst of a period of great change; whether this change is closer to a renaissance or a regression is still at question. There has been no other and will be no other time as ripe as now to bring forth additional changes to the Washington and Lee campus, especially in the realm of personal freedom.
In times like these, the student body must come together to foster and grow the freedom of speech, the freedom of expression, and in my opinion, the freedom of self-defense – a right as natural and inherent as the freedoms of movement and self-determination.
I am not advocating the wanton allowance of firearms – rather the opposite: the strict regulation of handguns on campus. No one respects W&L’s right as a private entity to regulate the possession of weapons on campus more than I do, but as a participating member of the student body I would like to see change in the current policy.
As it stands, there is a complete prohibition on the possession of firearms and ammunition, with the exception of police officers. It is my opinion that this policy only serves to harm the student body, and needlessly and recklessly put the lives of students at risk. Nearly all students on campus are legal adults, and around half are 21 years or older and are legally allowed to own a firearm.
I want to be clear in what I am advocating for: I would like to see students possessing a valid license to carry a concealed firearm from either Virginia or a state that Virginia recognizes, be allowed to carry, in a concealed fashion, firearms on campus with restrictions on how those firearms are stored during non-class hours.
For those who are not entirely familiar with firearms and their permitting, the majority of states require a permit to carry a concealed firearm. How these permits are issued vary from state to state, but for me, as a Massachusetts resident, the requirements are as follows:
· The applicant must be 21 years of age with a clean criminal record
· The applicant cannot be addicted to any controlled substances
· The applicant must have completed a firearms safety course and provide finger prints to the police
A significant number of states, Virginia included, have similar restrictions where the permit holder must be able to demonstrate handgun proficiency and knowledge.
In Massachusetts, this meant that I had to undergo a five-hour course at my police station, which was concluded with a written test on firearms and a demonstration of my proficiency handling, loading, and clearing a handgun.
Additionally, several states, Massachusetts included, are “may issue” states, meaning that the applicant needs to provide letters of recommendation or at least names of references for several people, and the police chief reserves the right to deny legally qualified applicants for character issues.
While Virginia is not a may issue state, many of W&L’s students come from such states and in relation to the rest of the country, Virginia still has pretty strong concealed carry laws. Recently several states including Texas and Utah have opened up campus carry across their states, with very few issues.
The first objection that will likely be brought up in allowing campus carry will be the matter of where firearms are stored. Washington and Lee has a drinking problem and no sane individual would argue that handguns should be allowed in student housing alongside alcohol.
The tragedies that have struck our nation, including the massacre of unarmed students locally at Virginia Tech in 2007, have occurred during standard operating hours, with the VT shooting starting as early as 7:00 AM.
My proposal to balance the safety of students during and after class is a simple one: allow students with valid permits to carry their firearms from the beginning of the first class period, to the end of the last period. Following that, students would have an hour grace period to check their firearms with Public Safety for storage until the following day. Funding for the storage locker can be paid for by charging students wishing to carry a permitting fee, thus creating a record of who is allowed to carry on campus.
This would allow students to exercise their rights during the time they are most likely to need to do so, and also keep the firearms away from student housing and off campus parties, where they do not belong.
Students caught carrying on campus without prior approval would face an Honor Violation, thus discouraging students from carrying on campus without following the storage requirements.
I could provide statistic after statistic about the effectiveness of similar programs across the country, but I do not feel that is within the scope of this first article. Washington and Lee is a unique environment, and I have more confidence and trust in my community members to responsibly and quietly deal with campus carry than I do in any other group of people.