On March 5, Ann Arbor resident Joshua Wade openly carried his firearm to his younger sister’s choir concert at Pioneer High School, creating a disruption among audience members. In response to the incident, the Ann Arbor Public School Board passed three policies on April 15 effectively banning all weapons on school grounds unless they are carried by law enforcement officials. Months later, Wade, though unaffiliated with the University, has once again decided to take a stance on the right to carry his weapon and filed a lawsuit against the University for banning guns on campus, claiming the ban is unconstitutional. While the University’s ban is seemingly legal, bans enacted by other public entities, such as elementary and secondary schools, may not be. With the number of incidents involving guns on the rise, Michigan legislators must act now to unequivocally keep guns out of schools.
As a separate entity under the state constitution, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University have the power to make and enforce ordinances about weapons on campus that are not aligned with state law. However, AAPS and other school districts that have passed gun control policies, such as Clio Area Schools, might not have that right. Both districts are currently being sued for allegedly violating the Michigan constitution, which allows for citizens with a Concealed Pistol License to enter gun-free zones as long as their concealed weapon is carried openly on the premises. The group Michigan Gun Owners and Ann Arbor resident and AAPS parent Ulysses Wong have filed a lawsuit against AAPS while Clio schools parent Kenneth Herman has filed suit against Clio. It seems the schools are violating the CPL and open carry laws surrounding in the state.
However, this is not the case at the University. Weapons are not allowed on campus unless specifically stated in the Standard Practice Guide. Because of this, there are many procedures and regulations in place to make it easier to detect a threat on campus, similar to other schools across the state. For example, in September 2014, the University issued an Emergency Alert warning of a possibly armed suspect in the Chemistry Building. Though this turned out to be a false alarm, it demonstrates the safety benefits of gun bans on campus. The mere presence of what appeared to be a gun on campus set off a chain of security procedures. Because the University doesn’t allow any guns on campus, there is no need to determine if a particular gun is a threat, and safety procedures can be implemented far more effectively. The presence of guns on campus can muddy the waters and cause uncertainty for students and law enforcement officers alike.
Similarly, proponents of lifting gun bans from college campuses often claim that guns could help prevent sexual assaults, which would be particularly powerful considering recent University survey results show approximately 22.5 percent of University females have been victims of sexual misconduct. However, this argument fails to consider the reality of sexual assault on college campuses; according to 2008 research by the National Institute of Justice, 85 to 90 percent of sexual assaults against females are perpetrated by someone known to the victim. This invalidates the stereotypical idea of “a predator lurking behind the bushes” that dominates the conversation about sexual assault and suggests that guns are not the best antidote; when the victim trusts the assailant, guns are difficult to anticipate and implement for protection. Simply, there is no logical reason for guns to be on campus.
Just as college campuses should be gun-free zones for the safety and security of students, so should other public schools. Gov. Rick Snyder and the state legislature must take action in order to close the loopholes that currently allow those with a CPL to open carry in schools. These weapons are neither needed, nor wanted.