The pro and anti-guns on campus debate misses an important point: A bill can be a bad bill no matter which side of the debate you’re on. Senate Bill 174 currently is a bad bill. It prevents common sense regulation and response when bad things involving weapons happen on campus. It also permits behavior that most responsible gun owners would not endorse. The current version of SB 174:
• Allows students or employees whose behavior demonstrates a risk of harm to self or others, including suicidal students, to possess weapons on University property;
• Allows handguns, rifles and shotguns in dorms and shared housing, a communal and volatile environment for young adults, while not requiring adequate secure storage;
• Allows concealed carry of long guns;
• Allows weapons in counseling centers and during adjudications and investigations of disputes and disciplinary issues such as sexual assaults, harassment, domestic violence, as well as employment and academic program terminations, unless the University establishes expensive “secure points” and “screening.”
• Allows concealed carry in programs dedicated to K-12 students; and
• Allows concealed carry in classrooms, labs, and critical infrastructure without any background check or safety training.
From the outset, the Board of Regents has requested six amendments to the proposed legislation, so that if guns are on campus, they can be managed responsibly. At one point, an amended version of the bill (CSSB 174 (EDC)) proposed by the bill sponsor and passed by the Senate Education Committee included four of those six amendments. However, the current version of the bill strips out or rolls back those amendments and creates additional issues like concealed carry of rifles and open carry of knives.
There can and should be ongoing debate regarding whether guns make campuses safer from mass shootings and violent crime. However, mass shootings on university campuses are very rare, and universities have lower violent crime rates than their surrounding communities. There can be no debate about the fact that the lethality of suicide attempts is dramatically increased when firearms are used. Suicide is not a theoretical concern in Alaska or on our campuses. It is a leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds, and our campuses deal with numerous suicidal students every year.
All seven of the states that require their public universities to allow concealed carry require a permit, with two of those requiring an enhanced permit. Four of those states also allow regulation of weapons in dorms and other locations. While there is an argument that disasters have not occurred on these campuses, SB 174 presently doesn’t resemble the laws in these other states.
The Board of Regents and University of Alaska administration asks your support for the Senate Education Committee version of this bill, with further amendments to address K-12 and a permit requirement. For more information visit www.alaska.edu/state/advocacy/
• Michael Hostina is the General Counsel for the University of Alaska Statewide System.