On campus: bring your own gun?
Marcus Clem | Collegio Reporter
When faced with a direct threat to life, some students say they can rely only on themselves and their weapons. They gathered on campus this week.
The Gorillas for Concealed Carry on Campus, founded last year by club president Edwin Stremel, senior in automotive technology and student senator, invited six candidates for state offices to speak on the concealed-carry issue. Speakers addressed whether holders of state concealed-weapons permits should be allowed to carry on campus.
The speakers mainly addressed the argument that concealed-carry license holders have a constitutional right to be armed.
“The Second Amendment is an important right guaranteed in the Constitution,” said Jake LaTurner, Republican candidate for Kansas State Senate District 13, which covers Crawford and Cherokee counties and partly extends into southern Bourbon County. We have to fight for it …”
Mike Houser, Republican candidate for Kansas House of Representatives District 1, which covers Cherokee County, is campaigning on an absolutist position for gun rights.
“The Second Amendment reads, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,’” Houser said. “Now what did that say? ‘Shall not be infringed.’ There is no two ways about it. You can’t touch that. This right existed before the creation.
“Every brutal dictator in the modern history of the world began their political career by disarming the people,” he said. “That is the start to bathing the country in blood. If people don’t stand up for our rights, what are you going to stand up for?”
Julie Menghini, a Pittsburg Democrat who is campaigning to regain her seat after losing re-election in 2010, says that the issue at hand is not so black and white.
“I voted in favor of concealed carry for Kansas when I was in the House … When concealed carry on campus came up, the Kansas Board of Regents and university administrators were definitely and vehemently opposed to the bill. The National Rifle Association testified on this issue as a neutral party… and so I was not sure which way to go. I voted against it.
“I later learned that students voted against concealed carry on campus and that student government also voted against it. We need to make sure that we represent what the people want.”
Stremel, the concealed-carry club president, says that concealed-carry rights are important because laws do not protect individuals against violent criminals.
“In instances where you have had school shootings, people irrationally fear the gun,” he said. “Rather than fix the problem, the laws have addressed the fear. If am carrying a gun on campus illegally, a sign on the door is not going to stop me.”
Stremel’s colleague in the Senate, graduate student in business administration Anupam Thakur, disagrees.
“When you are carrying arms and ammunition, automatically you have a feeling of power, and people tend to misuse that,” Thakur said. “Guns are easily misused or used with the wrong intention. People often use guns in a flaunting manner and I have never seen an individual use a private gun for the right purpose.”
Club secretary James Keppin, junior in history education, says that the club seeks to present a simple and fact-based argument for its position.
“It is vital that our decisions be made on the basis of facts, figures and statistics and not fear or emotional arguments. It is inexcusable to allow suppositions and what-ifs to overrule facts and reason considering these measures.”
Stremel also elaborated on the club’s cause.
“My concern is not (known crime), it’s that you can’t tell what is going to happen,” he said. “Crimes still happen on campus, every crime that happens in the real world can happen here, and I need to be able to defend myself.”
Speaking for the administration, Steve Erwin, associate vice president for campus life and auxiliary Services, says that having concealed carry on campus could endanger the students carrying more than anyone else.
“We counter the arguments that it makes campus safer by saying that it would not,” he said. “In a hostage situation, law enforcement officers are trained to eliminate that threat, and they are looking for an armed person in civilian clothes. If you have others drawing weapons and taking action … it may end up in them getting eliminated.”