Do Weapons Increase Safety or Threaten Students?

"As a college student, and a concealed handgun license holder, when I step onto campus, I am left unable to defend myself. My state allows me to carry a handgun in public, but there is some imaginary line drawn around college campuses for silly reasons. And those silly reasons are getting people killed, raped and robbed."

Jon Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore, said the contention that more guns make a campus safer is simply wrong.

"Rather than arming students, we should instead focus on making it harder for criminals and other dangerous persons to gain access to firearms in the first place," Vernick explained in an e-mail to ABC News.

"We have approximately 30,000 firearm-related deaths in the United States each year — about 80 per day," said Vernick, "more than two Virginia Techs happening every day."

While those on either side of the issue cite evidence supporting their claims, conclusive data on right-to-carry laws and concealed weapons is scant. "Research devoted to understanding the defensive and deterrent effects of guns has resulted in mixed and sometimes widely divergent findings," concluded a 2004 report on firearms and safety, produced by the National Research Council.

Returning to Virginia Tech

Fall semester classes begin on Aug. 20 at Virginia Tech. An initial report on last April's shooting incident, commissioned by Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, is expected to be released during the first week of classes at the college.

A second independent panel, that includes former Homeland Security director Tom Ridge, is expected to release its findings on the shooting in the coming months.

In Virginia, the law states that universities can prohibit students and faculty from carrying weapons onto campus, even if those students have state permits to carry concealed handguns. Following the shooting in April, Virginia Tech approved a violence prevention policy, reaffirming its ban on students and employees bringing guns on campus.

Not all Virginia Tech students agree with the university's ban on weapons and, for some students, the April shooting was a sign that students should have more, not fewer weapons.

"A law to prevent gun ownership doesn't do anything except keep good standing people more dependent on the government, so I am against any kind of gun control," explained Jeremy McClay, a senior at Virginia Tech, who supports gun rights on constitutional grounds.

Referring to the Virginia Tech shooting, McClay explained that "If students had been armed, I think the outcome would have been the same ... ownership of a firearm does not mean you are proficient at it."

Jamal Carver graduated last spring from Virginia Tech with a degree in engineering science and mechanics. He was in his Monday morning engineering class when Cho began shooting into the Norris Hall classroom. Carver, one of several wounded in the assault, suffered gunshot wounds to his arm and stomach.

Carver shared his thoughts on gun rights. "I think I'd rather have it where students can't have guns on campus," he said, adding, "there should be some sort of system where a person has to go through some kind of a serial background check" before being allowed to purchase a weapon.

Four months after the shooting, Carter explained he is doing well, physically, and that he is "emotionally fine ... besides the occasional bad dream." He said he plans to attend graduate school in the near future.

"A lot of people have sort of moved on," he said, speaking about fellow classmates, many of whom go back to school next week. Carver expects those returning to be more jittery and aware of their surroundings when they attend classes in the fall.

"It will just be different."

Additional reporting by ABC News' Logan Koffler.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...