Whether the news of the day is a mass shooting or a fugitive’s battle with police, this has been a violent two weeks for America. Even in Ann Arbor, there was a DPS crime alert about the assault of a female student by an unknown young male. Of course, we all remember horrific incidents of violence at universities, like the Virginia Tech massacre that occurred two years ago next week. This crime was exactly the sort of attack the annual “Take Back the Night” rally intends to prevent.
All of these terrible occurrences show two grim truths. First, bad things can happen anywhere, at any time, to any one of us. The second is that we are responsible for our own safety. The young woman who was attacked makes this clear as she struggled and broke free from her assailant. DPS and the Ann Arbor Police Department cannot be everywhere at all times.
Improving personal safety requires proactive steps like being aware of one’s surroundings and staying in well-lit areas. But despite all the precautions a person might observe, crimes will still be committed. In these situations, forceful self-defense becomes necessary. The trouble with self-defense is that college students are often denied a highly effective tool of self-defense: a concealed handgun. Suppose the girl who was assaulted wasn’t strong or fortunate enough to break free. If she was walking to or from campus, she was denied the right to use the best tool of self-defense because of state and University laws that make it a crime for licensed gun owners to carry a concealed handgun on campus. University policy also imposes serious academic penalties. To present an even worse situation, suppose there was a mass shooting on campus. Because of misguided laws and policies, those who would otherwise have been prepared to defend themselves would be left unarmed and helpless.
Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is a student organization working with universities and state legislatures to allow students at public universities who are licensed in accordance with state law the ability to carry a concealed pistol. The organization has 38,000 members across the country, and the majority of the members are students and faculty. The group has successfully introduced legislation in multiple states and is continuing to grow since its founding after the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.
Allowing the concealed carry of pistols on campus is not about arming every single college student, as many of the group’s detractors believe. The fact is, students are already armed. Essentially anyone who is over 21, has no criminal background and is mentally healthy can qualify to obtain a Michigan Concealed Pistol License. Many students have CPLs and own firearms, and frequently carry all over Ann Arbor. Statistically, these CPL — holding students are among the most law-abiding segments of the population. Unlike what many naysayers believed when CPLs were first instituted, small arguments haven’t become firefights, nor have police accidentally shot CPL holders when they arrive on scene. In addition, if a license-holder is forced to draw a pistol in self-defense, they are at least as likely to avoid hitting innocent bystanders as most police forces. The only difference between Ann Arbor and the University campus in terms of carrying handguns is an invisible legal line, which neither deters criminals nor turns law-abiding students into irresponsible armed drunks. Removing this line would make the campus much safer than people imagine it to be at the moment by allowing students to exercise their right to self-defense.
Julian Lizzio is an LSA senior.