Study: Most college and university presidents don't want guns on campus

Topic: College of Sciences and Humanities

June 2, 2014

An overwhelming majority of college and university presidents want to keep their campuses gun free, says a new study from Ball State University.

“University Presidents’ Perceptions and Practice Regarding the Carrying of Concealed Handguns on College Campuses” found that about 95 percent of respondents opposed allowing concealed handguns on campus and about 91 percent cited accidental shootings of fellow students as the greatest disadvantage of allowing concealed weapons.

“Currently available data indicates that college campuses are one of the safest places in communities for college-age students, and college leaders want to keep it that way,” study co-author Jagdish Khubchandani, a member of Ball State’s Global Health Institute and a community health education professor in the university's Department of Physiology and Health Science. The research team also included faculty from University of Toledo in Ohio.

College campuses have traditionally been gun-free zones, but recent, rare mass shootings on campuses and lobbying from pro-firearm groups have led to political pressures to permit concealed firearms on college campuses, Khubchandani said.

“It is not surprising, given the common law legal implications and safety concerns of college campuses, that the vast majority of college presidents were opposed to a policy permitting concealed carrying of handguns on campus,” he said. “The presidents’ views seem to be in line with their students. In 2013, we found that 78 percent of college students at 15 Midwestern schools were strongly opposed to having guns on campus.”

Researchers surveyed 401 college chief executives and found that 79 percent did not own a firearm while 57 percent grew up in a home without a gun. About 5 percent of presidents had a valid permit to carry a concealed handgun.

The study, which was recently published by the Journal of American College Health, also found:

• About 65 percent of respondents were against allowing concealed handguns off campus.

• About 98 percent of the presidents thought students and faculty felt safe on their campuses. Additionally, 92 percent said most faculty and students would feel unsafe if faculty, students and visitors carried concealed handguns.

• Nearly 81 percent said they did not avoid places around campuses out of concern for their safety.

• Seven percent reported a crime on their campus in the past year where the perpetrator used a firearm

When the presidents were asked about standards to carry a concealed handgun, they thought a person should be required to pass a firearms training course (88 percent), periodically practice at a firing range to maintain their skills (87 percent) and show proof of a minimum of liability insurance in case the shooter wounded or killed an innocent person (86 percent).

An examination found the five most common campus safety measures were: identifying and referring potentially violent students (91 percent), mass text alerts (91 percent), active shooter plan (85 percent), campus police presence (82 percent) and video cameras (77 percent). However, less than half of the presidents indicated either their faculty (45 percent) or their student body (38 precedent) was trained to respond to an active shooter on campus.

Khubchandani said the results of the study showed numerous opportunities through early intervention and awareness programs to help maintain a very low level of firearm violence on college campuses.

“Given the porous environment of college campuses and the levels of pressures, substance abuse and mental health problems of students, it is strongly recommended that faculty and administrators become more preemptive in their efforts to minimize firearm violence on their campuses,” he said.

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