Washington (CNSNews.com) – The first convention of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus (SCCC) featured one panelist who favors gun control.
Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said college students carrying guns on campus will not make anyone safer. He pointed to studies showing that college students are more likely to engage in risky behavior than the general population.
“When I look back on my college days, maybe it was a different era in the late ‘60s, but most of my fraternity brothers didn’t have criminal records – not yet, most of them, even those who were in ROTC and hunters – (but) the behaviors they exhibited weren’t the kind of behaviors that gave me confidence that packing guns in their lockers or in their rooms would make me safer,” Helmke said.
The conference at the National Press Club in Washington included a debate between Helmke and John Lott, a Second Amendment supporter and author of “The Bias Against Guns.”
However, those who support strict gun control laws were clearly in the minority at last Friday’s event.
Lott argued that the designation of gun-free zones on college campuses, including Virginia Tech, can inadvertently lead to such tragedies.
“Rather than creating safe zones for victims, we may unintentionally be creating safe zones for criminals who are doing the attacks and who have less to worry about,” said Lott, a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland. He added that only law-abiding citizens respect the kinds of restrictions that campuses like Virginia Tech have placed on students.
Lott also cited statistics showing that individuals with permits to carry concealed guns are rarely involved in criminal activities, and in some cases have helped end a deadly rampage, such as the Colorado Springs, Colo., church shooting last year where a church security guard with a gun permit stopped the shooter.
Helmke, however, argued that “many of us do things we shouldn’t do,” including those who are licensed to carry guns. He recounted a recent domestic dispute between two married police officers who had guns in the home.
“They got in a fight, and she was dead,” Helmke said.
Michael Guzman, the president of SCCC, mentioned that the group was formed on April 17, 2007 – one day after 32 students and faculty members were killed at Virginia Tech by an armed student on a rampage.
Yet it was not fear, Guzman said, but the right to bear arms that inspired the formation of SCCC.
“The media likes to paint us as paranoid about mass shootings on campus,” Guzman said, adding that his group is the first to admit these kinds of events are rare.
“What we are more concerned about are the types of crimes that happen on a daily basis on our campuses across the country. These crimes are rape, assault, robberies … these are things we should be able to protect ourselves against,” he said.
“Allowing handguns does provide extra protection and extra deterrent against crime,” Jeremy Schwab, a graduate student at the University of Texas Dallas, told CNSNews.com. “It’s not a one-stop solution but provides a deterrent, and I feel very comfortable with people who have fulfilled their requirement to be able to carry.”
Allison Gross, an intern with the Brady Campaign, told CNSNews.com that she was against students having guns on campus.
“I think it’s absolutely ludicrous, and there’s no need for it,” Gross said. “I don’t think you can make the argument that if you had a gun on campus you could have stopped the Virginia Tech (rampage). I think it would make it worse.
“If anyone brought a gun to class, I’d be scared out of my mind, regardless if they are trying to stop someone who is shooting someone or not,” she said.
The Brady Campaign was founded after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan and named after his former press secretary, Jim Brady, who was shot in the head and permanently disabled.
The SCCC event drew students from across the country, and each participant received a “goody bag” that included a SCCC bumper sticker, a brochure listing quotes from the Founding Fathers of the United States on gun rights, and a book titled, “FIRE’s Guide to Free Speech on Campus.” (FIRE is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.)