Concealed Carry on Campus: Is This Much Ado About Nothing?

The typical anecdotal reaction to concealed carry on college campuses is the supposition that there will be mass shootings on every campus; that faculty will be at an increased risk; and that the classrooms will be like Tombstone on Saturday night. An article in the March 4, 2016 edition of  The Chronicle of Higher Education summarized suggestions from the president of the University of Houston’s Faculty Senate to the faculty on steps they should take to protect themselves in response to Texas’ concealed carry law.  These suggestions include the following: “be careful discussing sensitive topics,” “drop certain topics from your curriculum,” and “limit access to office hours.”

A review of the data does not support these anecdotal reactions and do not support the suggestions presented by the University of Houston’s Faculty Senate president. Colorado has had concealed carry on public university campuses beginning in 2003. The Breitbart News Network reports that the only campus incident involving a handgun was an accidental discharge by a faculty member (for which the faculty member was subsequently terminated).

A discussion about concealed carry on a college campus should begin with a few simple definitions. The FBI defines a mass shooting as one with three or more victims in the same incident. An active shooter situation is defined as a shooting where there are three or more victims in a confined area. Shootings in buildings on college campuses are defined as active shooting situations. Virginia Tech may be the most readily identifiable active shooting example on a college campus.

The FBI has designated 50 active shooting situations in the U.S. in 2016 and 2017. It is important to note the timeframes of the FBI report.  Regarding the FBI reports, in an active shooter situation one victim is wounded every 15 seconds.  During the Virginia Tech shooting, however, one victim was wounded every 10.3 seconds.

Active Shooter Statistics

50 designated active shooting situation in 2016 and 2017

34% occurred at a business environment

14% occurred in an educational environment

100% involved a single shooter

22% of shooters committed suicide at the scene

22% were killed by law enforcement

16% were stopped by citizens

FBI: Active Shooter Incidents in the United states in 2016 and 2017 (04/2018).

There are approximately 13 million concealed carry permit holders in the United States.  Only .0002266% of these permit holders have perpetrated an active shooting. The Crime Prevention Research Center reports that from October, 1987 to May, 2014, Florida issued 2.64 million concealed carry permits.  During that time, 168 (.0006%) permits were revoked for a firearms violation. The most common reason for the revocation was carrying a weapon in a gun-free zone.  This is an annual revocation rate of .0002%. Compare this to police officer involved firearms violations from January, 2005 through December, 2007 which was .007%. This percentage difference reflects that police officers commit firearms violations at a higher rate than do concealed carry permit holders.

A very frequent response to legalizing concealed carry on a college campus is the presence of trained police officers. The only time police officers are factors in active shooting situations is when they are very near the shooting scene.  Approximately 70% of the shooting situations are over before the police arrive, so the police are non-factors in these events. The general perception is that police officers are highly trained and proficient with their firearms. In fact, not all police officers are proficient with a hand gun. And not all police officers are well trained. Ohio requires police officers to qualify one time per year and the total rounds fired during qualification is 25. The longest distance police officers in Ohio are required to fire for qualification is 50 feet. Not all police officers like to shoot and therefore, they do very little to no practicing outside of departmentally sponsored qualifications. On the other hand, individuals who have concealed carry permits have them for a variety of reasons: some for self-protection, some for protection of family, and some for other concerns.  One overriding characteristic of concealed carry individuals is that they like handguns. They like recreational shooting, they like training, they like to increase their proficiency. As a result of these likes, concealed carry permit holders practice to be proficient.

At this time in our society, it is naive to think there are not handguns in college classrooms across the U.S. with or without the benefit of concealed carry permits. Citizens with concealed carry permits do not commit gun violations.  Statistically, they commit less gun violations than do police officers. Considering the response time of the police, a concealed weapon may be the only difference between a potential victim and a victim. One final thought: the March 23, 2016 edition of The Chronicle published an article examining the connection between engineering programs and terrorism, yet there has been no uproar suggesting that because of this link, universities terminate engineering programs on college campuses.

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