The Wyoming House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill recently that would allow the concealed carrying of weapons on college campuses, and some students are taking notice.
There are more than a dozen sponsors between the House and Senate, but no Albany County lawmakers on House Bill 136. And despite public opposition from University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols and Laramie County Community College President Joe Schaffer, the bill advanced to the House floor, where it’s passed the last two times it’s been proposed. In the past two attempts, however, the bill died in the Senate.
Caught between administrative leaders and lawmakers are the students on college campuses. With a bill that has people on either side concerned about safety, students expressed a diverse array of opinions when asked where they stand on concealed carry on campus at UW on Wednesday.
Cecily Hughes: undergraduate, criminal justice major
“Personally, I feel like it should be allowed. It’s allowed all throughout the state, so anywhere you go off campus, and it’s automatically going to be an issue no matter what. I understand they are trying to make the campus safer by prohibiting conceal carry on campus. However, at the end of the day, you can step off campus and you can still carry. So I think it should be allowed because it’s not going to make a difference if you’re on campus or off of it. ... To get a conceal carry permit, you do have to go through a few processes in order to make sure you’re sane enough to carry a gun. Because of those precautions, I think it could make campus safer. Say if we had a threat, if you do have that concealed carry permit, you’re more likely to help out than if you have to just stand there defenseless.”
Erica Oman: graduate student, political science
“I teach political science courses and partisan tensions were very high because of the election. Some conversations became tense. If a student had chosen to bring a gun to class under concealed carry they would absolutely have been allowed to intimidate myself and their fellow classmates. I would not be able to effectively do the job that the school and my students pay me to do. I learned some valuable skills about leadership and deflection because of the partisan conversations that came up but I cannot foresee how bringing firearms into the mix would have had any positive impact.”
Jonet Jennings: undergraduate, international studies and political science
“It’s both scary, and at the same time, I’d feel safe. I just turned 21 so I want to apply for a concealed carry permit, and I just think if you know how to use it and you’ve taken the class and things like that, it could be handy if something bad happened. But at the same time, it’s scary, like if fellow classmates are walking around with guns. But I think it’s the world we live in today. (I) definitely feel conflicted.”
Edward Oursler: undergraduate, physiology and molecular biology
“I think the university should have the right to make its own rules according to its campus. If the university doesn’t feel like it’s safe, then it should have the right to put in their rules, because they are their own entity. But granted, they are funded by the state. It wouldn’t make me uncomfortable either way, but I know its contentious for a lot of people. So I guess you’d probably have to ask people who are a little more fiery about the subject. I grew up in Wyoming so obviously guns never really bothered me.”
Jessica Fahlsing: undergraduate, psychology
“Allowing concealed weapons on campus would make me, as a student at the University of Wyoming, feel very unsafe. Simply put, there is no reason to have a weapon on a college campus. Campuses are intended to be safe places where one can focus on learning and becoming involved in community and culture. We have the (University of Wyoming Police Department) to protect us from potential threats and to provide aid in dangerous situations, and this is enough. Having a concealed weapon on campus, even for those who hold permits, is completely unnecessary. More weapons on campus will only increase the likelihood of violence.”
Cody Bennett: undergraduate, history education
“As far as conceal carry goes, my dad’s a state trooper, so no matter where I go, he’s always got a gun on him. And it seems like everywhere we go, you always have that extra sense of safety from having the gun. Obviously there’s going to be people that shouldn’t carry a gun that do, and that’s going to be scary for some people, but I think that, for the most part, the people that do go to the class and get their conceal carry are people that should carry a gun.”