Working on campus in a major city comes with some additional challenges, such as traffic, parking and finding a suitable place to live. However, an urban campus can also be a dangerous one. UWT has most of the same criminal incidents as other urban universities: break-ins, vehicle thefts and assault being some of the more common ones. Sexual assault and rape especially catch our eyes when we see it being addressed on social media or in news publications. The Association of American Universities reported that in 2015, 23.1 percent of female undergraduates and 5.4 percent of male undergraduates experience rape or sexual assault on campus. These figures have generated much attention in the recent past, with administrators and social justice activists trying to find a comprehensive solution to the issue.
While I don’t mean to slander the school or its security team in any way, some of these crimes are just too unpredictable for campus security. They work around the clock to help us stay safe, but they’re not our bodyguards.
Rather, we as students should take upon ourselves the personal responsibility, and personal liberty, to defend ourselves from danger. The liberalization of conceal carry laws to allow law-abiding, legally knowledgeable, licensed students to carry on campus — if they chose to do so — could help reduce crime and allow students to practice the right to self-defense.
When conceal carry laws are implemented on other campuses, the results are different from what most would think. David Kopel wrote an article for The Washington Post in 2015 highlighting the success of Colorado’s Concealed Carry Act. At Colorado State University — with a campus of 30,000 students — there was no significant incident with licensed individuals over a 12-year time span.
The article continues by pointing out the rate of arrest for those with conceal carry permits compared to the general rate of arrests in Colorado: “…In the five-year period between 2009-2013, there were 154,434 concealed handgun carry permits issued in Colorado. During this same period, 1,390 permits were revoked. 931 of these permits were revoked following an arrest. Contrast this with the arrests of over 200,000 Colorado adults in 2013 alone.”
Compared to the general rate of arrests, those who had their license revoked following an arrest made a very small fraction compared to unlicensed arrests, thus highlighting the law abiding nature of those who conceal carry.
It is important to address the more compelling arguments against concealed carry on campus — and they’re similar arguments that are used against carrying a weapon in general. Yes, chances are good that if you do carry a weapon, you will hardly, if ever, use deadly force in order to defend yourself or others. Most of the time, that gun will stay on your hip or in your purse for a situation that may never happen to you. Many would consider themselves lucky that they never have to take a life in self-defense. Focusing on de-escalation methods in whatever situation should always be the prerogative of the individual, whether they carry a weapon or not. Not to mention, if someone were to conceal carry, it is important to be legally literate as to understand when the use of deadly force is allowed by law, as well as setting aside time to train with your weapon to ensure accuracy and preparedness for life-threatening situations. Carrying is no casual matter, but a great responsibility for the person carrying to be aware of others and to practice critical decision making.
While all of this is true, it is important to focus on why carrying a weapon is important: having the ability to defend yourself in the chance that you do need to protect yourself from a hostile person or situation. As overused as it is, the saying that it’s better to have it and not need it — then need it and not have it — rings true not just for those who carry. After all, most of us have a fire extinguisher in our homes or place of business in the off chance of a fire, or carry a first aid kit in our car in the event of a crash. We don’t even take notice of these items until disaster does strike, and yet they become important when we really need them. Carrying a weapon is the same way, and having the ability to use it is important if there is a hostile situation that is unavoidable or otherwise impossible to de-escalate.
Although our local and state laws currently prohibit Washington colleges and universities from allowing students to conceal carry on campus, I believe that it is important to review these laws in the future. Conceal carry on campuses can help students protect themselves from many potentially dangerous situations, and can even reduce on-campus crime. It is a smart merger between freedom and security that places universities in a position to recognize the student’s ability to defend themselves as they see fit.