Survey: University students uncomfortable with ‘campus carry’

Posted on: March 7th, 2011 by Patrick Brendel 8 Comments

Image by: Matt MahurinMore students were uncomfortable about having concealed weapons on college campuses than were comfortable with the idea, according to a new survey led by a Sam Houston State University professor. The results mesh with public statements against ‘campus carry’ by university leaders, teachers and students, including a letter signed by two Texas A&M faculty that has sparked an ethics investigation.

The Texas Legislature has several campus-carry bills for its consideration, the foremost being Senate Bill 354 by state Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) and House Bill 750 by state Rep. Joe Driver (R-Garland).

According to survey results posted on the SHSU website, The average SHSU student had a 39 percent comfort level (out of 100 points) with the idea of concealed weapons on campus, and an average comfort level of 49 percent about concealed weapons in the community.

“It also appears from a comparison of opinions related to guns on campus versus opinions about concealed handguns in the wider community that these students perceived the university as a unique setting, in that they were notably less comfortable with the idea of allowing concealed handguns in that setting than in the community at large,” according to the study.

SHSU criminal justice professor Jeffrey Bouffard led the survey of 1,317 SHSU students and 375 students at a Washington university, where the average student reported a 33 percent comfort level of concealed weapons on campus.

“To date, little effort has been made to assess students’ opinions about whether concealed handgun carrying should be allowed on college and university campuses,” according to the study. “While the current study examines only two universities (albeit in different parts of the country), the results are strikingly similar in that college student opinion seems to be against a policy change that would allow the carrying of concealed weapons on campus.”

The study will be presented at the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Meeting in Toronto this month.

In Texas, 23 percent of students were “not comfortable at all” and 10 percent were “very comfortable” with ‘campus carry.’ In Washington, 27 percent were “not comfortable at all” and 8 percent were “very comfortable” with ‘campus carry.’

While support and opposition to campus-carry legislation tends to cut across party lines, two A&M faculty are being investigated for a letter posted on the A&M website stating their personal opposition to guns on campus, the Bryan-College Station Eagle reports. According to Eagle reporter Vimal Patel, “[a] university rule states Texas A&M can’t endorse support or promote “partisan political activity.”"

The letter authors — Dean of Faculties Antonio Cepeda-Benito and Bob Strawser, speaker of the Faculty Senate — defended themselves to the Eagle, saying the letter was meant to inform not to “lobby;” they weren’t opposing a specific piece of legislation; campus carry is a work-related issue to faculty, not a political one; and the purpose of the letter was to encourage discussion among faculty.

As the Eagle reported, a different but similar letter by Cepeda-Benito alone is still posted on the Dean of Faculties (.pdf) website.

In the letter (.pdf), Cepeda-Benito says: “I am wholeheartedly against allowing guns in classrooms. To sum it up, I have little doubt that concealed weapons may make those carrying them feel safer. However, I am also certain that those of us who now feel safe without guns will no longer feel safe if these laws are passed.” (author’s emphases)

The controversy over the faculty members’ letter comes on the heels of a symbolic vote by A&M students, with 57 percent opposing among more than 13,600 votes cast, the Eagle’s Patel reported previously.

In late February, University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa sent a letter to Gov. Rick Perry stating his strong opposition to campus carry. According to the Texas Tribune’s Reeve Hamilton, “His concerns, it turns out, are numerous, ranging from unease on the part of campus mental health professionals to questions about heightened risks in laboratories and hospitals where pressurized gases are present.”

After an informational forum on campus carry was held at UT-Arlington, the university’s President James Spaniolo and Student Congress each made a public statement against guns on campuses, Spaniola via a letter and the Student Congress via a resolution, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported

The Council of Student Services Vice Presidents — representing 46 university campuses in Texas — also endorsed an anti-campus carry letter sent to lawmakers. According to the letter signed by Council Chair H. Eliot Chaneaux: “Those in our organization who are military veterans remind us that soldiers are not allowed to bring weapons into their barracks. The armed forces have determined that allowing even trained soldiers to introduce weapons into closed quarter housing is not advisable, yet we are considering allowing that very thing to occur on our college campuses.”

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