Penn State Expert Discusses Proposed Gun Ban

This story was written by Katharine Lackey & Holly Noelle Vandegrift, Daily Collegian
The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a landmark case regarding the meaning of the Second Amendment and whether it gives the individual a "right to keep and bear arms."

Depending on the justices' decision, the case could have huge implications including the "unlikely" possibility of affecting Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania State University's laws regarding the right to carry handguns and concealed weapons, a Penn State public policy professor said.

District of Columbia v. Heller is the first case to be heard by the Supreme Court on this issue since 1939.

The case could set a precedent for litigation if the court were to decide that its ruling, to be handed down in the summer, affects states and not just the federal government, said Matthew Woessner, an assistant professor of public policy at Penn State Harrisburg.

"It's unlikely because even if they decide that the federal government or the District of Columbia is not permitted to ban handguns, that would not necessarily mean that Pennsylvania is not allowed to ban handguns," he said. "If the D.C. law is overturned and it is found to be a comprehensive individual right ... one could see litigation about Penn State, but that's a pretty unlikely outcome."

The case of District of Columbia v. Heller revolves around the handgun ban the nation's capital placed on the area in 1976. The Second Amendment states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Nathaniel Sheetz, a representative for Penn State's Students for Concealed Carry on Campus said the Supreme Court case might have a major impact on the country.

Students on campus should be allowed to carry concealed weapons if they have permits, Sheetz said, in order to protect themselves and possibly prevent another university shooting such as the ones that occurred at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University.

"If you have a citizen on site already, they have a better chance of stopping the killer early," he said.

During the oral arguments Tuesday, Justice John Stevens and lawyer Alan Gura discussed whether state regulations prohibiting university students from having weapons in dorms would be acceptable.

University Police Assistant Director Tyrone Parham said firearms are "not allowed on campus regardless of any permit," adding that there have been several incidents involving illegal firearms on campus.

The most recent incident occurred two weeks ago at the White Course Apartments when police confiscated two handguns in a student's vehicle, Parham said.

For Josef Miller (sophomore-crime, law and justice), concealed weapons are important because he said he has been held up at gunpoint twice. "Even if you make laws against concealed and carry weapons criminals are still going to be able to find them, which will only make you more vulnerable," he said. "You can't restrict people from bearing arms."
© 2008 Daily Collegian via U-WIRE