In the wake of last week's tragedy at Northern Illinois University and last April's massacre at Virginia Tech, the seemingly endless series of school shootings has incited debate over the safety of college communities across the country.
Thursday, the Cornell College Republicans placed approximately 20 signs on the Arts Quad that publicized their stance on the increasingly polarizing issue of the concealed carry of weapons. They have joined the approximately 12,000 students nationwide who are part of a grassroots effort that is advocating for concealed weapons license holders to be able to carry their weapons on campuses.
Although prevalent on the Arts Quad during the morning hours, the removal of many of the signs by the afternoon conveyed a sense of disapproval from some members of the Cornell community who support's the University's "gun-free zone" policy.
According to a handout distributed by the College Republicans on the Arts Quad, a concealed carry policy entails that those with permits would be afforded the same rights to protect themselves (and others) on college campuses as they would be most public areas such as parks, malls etc.
"[Concealed carry] is an appropriate way to make our campus safer," said Ahmed Salem '08, president of the C.U. Republicans. "Shootings are a rarity, but people are dying. Not doing anything is the wrong solution."
Daniel Sherman '10 disagrees with the concealed carry policy.
"Universities are paces of learning, and guns do not contribute in any way towards this goal. It is unfortunate that troubled individuals have committed these acts, but counseling for those individuals, while continuing to maintain a safe atmosphere via current methods, is the best way to approach the issue [of maintaining a safe campus]," he said.
Angel Rendon '10 agreed: "Although I doubt there would be shootouts on the quad because we think that the possibility of violence on our campus merits us all being allowed to carry extremely dangerous weapons. We should work on emergency alert alternatives before we give out guns."
The College Republicans acknowledge that not every student should be permitted to have a handgun. They state that guns would not be allowed in dorms, and in order to obtain a permit to carry a weapon, an applicant must be 21 years old, have no criminal record, must pass a background check, and in New York State, must "demonstrate need" for a permit. Because they claim this last tenet is "unnecessarily restricted," the College Republicans would work to get it removed.
The College Republicans' effort is part of a growing national grassroots trend centered on the premise that making a campus a "gun-free zone" is not sufficient for ensuring the safety of those on it. "Gun-free zones are inadequate for ensuring campus safety. To arbitrarily distinguish college campuses as 'gun-free zones' is not only senseless, but dangerous. Nothing comforts a would-be murderer more than knowing all of his potential victims are helpless. Permitting concealed carry is a step the administration should take," they stated in the handout.
Although the College Republicans have not approached the administration yet, they intend to bring the issues surrounding concealed carry of weapons to the forefront of the administrative agenda.
"We hope people take this event seriously and understand our logical and thoughtful arguments," Salem said.
Well aware that many critics of concealed carry feel that an abundance of guns on campus would promote violence rather than limit it, Salem asserted, "It's not the guns that kill people, it's people."
Raza Hoda '11, a member of the College Republicans, further emphasized the importance of taking action at Cornell.
"Many people think school shootings are more prevalent in the southern states, but as shown by NIU, this is not the case," he said.
According to CNN, Utah is currently the only state where guns can be legally permitted on all campuses. In Colorado, students are allowed to carry guns on all campuses besides the University of Colorado at Boulder, where the administration has applied to rezone the campus as a restricted area. Legislation to permit concealed carry on college and university campuses is pending in Georgia, Idaho, Washington, Arizona, South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan.
© 2008 Cornell Daily Sun via U-WIRE