Let’s get something out of the way. I have shot weapons before and know basic firearm safety. I was a member of the Juneau Gun Club for a year and see no problem with adults, in their right mind, using guns to hunt or for recreational pleasures, such as trap shooting.
However, I’m going to be blunt: Senate Bill 174 is a horrible idea. The University of Alaska and the Board of Regents have set rules and policies against concealed carry on campus and university property, and I personally agree with those policies.
A learning environment, such as at the University of Alaska Southeast, is not a place where one needs to be able to have access to a firearm. It is a place where students and teachers come together to enhance the learning of all, not a shooting range or a hunting ground.
There are students who are under 18 at UAS as we continue to encourage dual-enrolled high school students. Campus tours with children grades K-12 continually come on to the campuses, and we would be putting harmless students in harm’s way with this bill being passed as-is. Students and staff also need to feel safe to be able to bring their children onto university grounds.
Another huge issue with anyone being able to carry a concealed weapon on campus is that Alaska has no required concealed carry permit. There is no guarantee that said person knows how to safely operate a firearm, is in the right state of mind, or has not had charges filed against them in the past. How is the university system supposed to know if said person has the knowledge to operate a firearm? There are hundreds of accidents involving guns all over the United States constantly, and there is no reason to add to that count, especially on UA grounds.
This doesn’t even begin to touch on the fact that students would be able to have firearms in the dorms where their roommates or visitors would have easy access to a weapon and could operate the firearm when under the influence. Technically, in the state of Alaska, one is not allowed to use a gun after even one alcoholic drink, however, all of that is up in the air when there are guns allowed in the dorms.
Personally, I worry that if SB 174 passes, that university officials cannot take away a firearm from someone who poses a threat to themself or others. This means that any person, no matter who they are or their state of mind, that walks onto university grounds could carry a weapon. I would not feel safe at any of the UA campuses knowing that any one of the students around me could be carrying a firearm and could use it on themselves, me, my fellow students, staff or faculty members if they got angry, distressed or depressed.
I encourage you with my whole heart to oppose SB 174 and allow the UA Board of Regents continue to create policies to keep the students safe.
• Callie Conerton is an elementary education major at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau. She is serving her second term as president of UAS’s Student Government. She also serves as the vice chair on the Coalition of Student Leaders, a statewide alliance of UA student governments.