Feb. 23, 2010— -- Every campus shooting – including the one 11 days ago at the University of Alabama – reignites the debate over whether students and faculty should be allowed to carry concealed guns into college classrooms. Most colleges already ban the practice, but one of the last holdouts in the country, Colorado State, is just now finalizing plans to ban firearms on campus.
That is not sitting well with many students who argue that a full ban actually puts them in more danger.
In the United States, under current federal legal precedent, it has been ruled constitutional under the Second Amendment for states to have licensing that permits concealed carried weapons, or even not to require any permits for concealed carry weapons. It is also constitutional for states to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons. The ban at Colorado State would allow exemptions for educational purposes and people who face a serious threat, if they have a concealed-carry permit.
When David Kelley, a history major at Colorado State, heads to class he grabs his backpack, his books, his gun and his bullets. "Whenever I go to put on the firearm in the morning, the first thing I do is check the magazine to make sure it's full," Kelley told ABC News. "Then I would make sure there is a round in the chamber."
In a state that saw record gun sales last year, the concealed gun ban has not gone down well with students like 22-year old biology major Kyle Crowley, who owns a Ruger .38 special pistol. "Where would I go if someone were to come into class right now and started shooting?" worries Kyle. "I feel like I would be more safe if I was able to carry my concealed carry with me on campus."
Many students are vowing to fight the ban, collecting thousands of signatures and picking up powerful allies. Colorado state Senator Greg Brophy is supporting the students – and guns on campus. "The first step goes to the courts and then ultimately, if we have to, you bet I'm coming back here to the statehouse to correct this problem."
That may be an uphill battle. In the last two years, about two dozen states have tried and failed to pass legislation legalizing concealed weapons on college campuses.
On the other side of the debate is the faculty.
"Professors would prefer not to have guns in their classrooms," said professor Richard Eykholt, who chairs the faculty council on Colorado State's Ft. Collins campus. "We want people to feel comfortable. To get into heated arguments and serious debates to learn from each other's perspectives, without have to worry about the presence of weapons in the room."
The university is backed by campus police across the country who find "no credible evidence" that students with concealed weapons make campuses safer. Research compiled by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators shows that student gun owners who engage in binge drinking might actually make things worse. And when there is a shooting, experiments has shown armed students react poorly, making the situation more dangerous.
The Colorado State University board is expected to take a vote on the issue today.
"It's about life. If someone comes to harm that life or jeopardize that life, I want to be prepared for that," says student David Kelley, sliding his .40 caliber Smith & Wesson handgun into a holster on his right hip. He says he just wants campuses to be safe. Opponents say they can do that without the help of a "fraternity militia."