Gov. John Kasich has signed House Bill 48, passed by the Ohio General Assembly last week, that will allow concealed carry weapon (CCW) license holders to carry in various previously prohibited places, including airports, police stations, day care facilities, and college campuses.
The new law passed the Senate along with a number of other new measures pushed through before the end of its two-year legislative session. The House had passed the bill in November of 2015.
Capital’s Board of Trustees will have the final decision on whether or not to allow concealed carry on campus, as well as the ability to enact specific restrictions. If the university elects not to allow concealed carry, the law would reduce the charge if a CCW license holder carries on campus, from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Proponents of the law argue that it will help prevent mass shootings, by eliminating “unarmed victim zones,” areas where law-abiding citizens are not allowed to carry firearms.
“Campus carry has no impact on the learning environment,” said Finley Newman-James, senior political science and public administration major. “It allows for greater protection of vulnerable populations, and it allows students to exercise their constitutional rights in an environment that’s geared toward trusting adults of age to act like adults.”
In order to apply for a CCW license in Ohio, individuals must be 21 years of age, the same requirement to purchase alcohol, which the university allows students of age to consume on campus.
Opponents of the law claim that the current restrictions are reasonable however, as police stations and college campuses are places where people are likely to have heated arguments, which become much deadlier with a firearm.
“I’m not going to tell someone they can’t own a gun if they’re a responsible gun owner,” said Rachel Comi, a senior psychology, sociology, and criminology triple-major. “But college students are not exactly the most stable population … All it takes is a disgruntled student or someone who’s having a bad day for something to happen.”
Comi is the co-founder of It’s Abuse, a student organization dedicated to spreading awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence issues on campus.
“If a gun is what makes you feel safe, and you’re only going to use it to protect yourself, that’s one thing. But there’s a fine line between defense and something more malicious,” Comi said. “When there’s a domestic violence situation in a relationship, the chances of it resulting in a fatality increases so much more with a gun.”
Capital University PD Chief Frank Fernandez spoke of the potential consequences of allowing CCW on campus.
“The environment itself is so busy that students may become negligent and leave a weapon unattended,” he said. “You have finals, you have papers, you have classes. You have so much on your mind. There’s a big potential to forget, and then an untrained person could find the weapon.”
Obtaining a CCW license in Ohio requires eight hours of training, six in the classroom, and two at a shooting range. This number was reduced from the original 12-hour requirement in March of 2015.
“At this point you only have to go to the class the one time to get your license,” Fernandez said. “But practice makes perfect. When people tell me they’re getting their CCW, I ask them, ‘How often are you going to practice?’ And I say, ‘You need to understand for sure that if you pull that trigger, you’re willing to take the life of somebody.’”
Universities in several states, including Colorado, Wisconsin, Oregon, Utah and Kansas, have provisions that allow for the concealed carry of firearms on their premises. Many others have laws that allow weapons to be locked in parked automobiles while on school property.
The University of Houston made headlines last year when a group of professors claimed that allowing guns in the classroom threatens free speech and safety, especially when discussing sensitive issues. Texas became the eighth state to allow concealed carry on college campuses in June of 2015.
Ironically, laws relating to the carrying of firearms in public spaces seem to be relaxing across the country while, at the same time, many states and the federal government are working to place more restrictions on their sale and purchase.
Stay tuned with the Chimes for more information as to how this new law with affect Capital’s campus.
This article was updated Dec. 20, 2016 at 10:00 a.m. A version of this article was published in print April 7, 2016.