OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Allowing more students and faculty at colleges and universities to carry guns on campus would be a serious mistake and jeopardize the public’s safety, the University of Oklahoma president told members of a legislative committee on Wednesday.
David Boren was among more than a dozen university presidents who attended a joint hearing of the House committees on public safety and higher education and expressed opposition to the idea.
“Placing guns on campus, in my opinion, except in the hands of highly trained law enforcement officials and professionals, would be a serious mistake,” said Boren, a former U.S. senator and Oklahoma governor who has been president of the state’s largest university for 20 years. “To put our university students, faculty and staff at risk in this way makes absolutely no sense.”
A group of Republican legislators requested Wednesday’s interim study to explore the idea of allowing individuals with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on campus. Under current law, a licensed gun owner can only carry a gun onto a college campus with written permission from the school’s president. About a dozen such requests have been granted in the last five years, according to the State Regents for Higher Education.
Rep. John Enns, a longtime supporter of expanded gun rights, was one of the lawmakers who requested the study. He said reports of sexual assaults and mass shootings on college campuses suggest to students that they are not safe places.
“You see these kids are terrified,” the Enid Republican said.
In previous years, bills to allow people with handgun licenses to carry guns on campus have received bipartisan support but never reached the governor’s desk amid opposition from college and university leaders.
Oklahoma’s higher education chancellor, Glen Johnson, said presidents of the state’s public colleges and universities unanimously oppose allowing more guns on campus.
“We don’t see a scenario where permitting the carrying of weapons on campus does anything but add to the danger,” Johnson said.
Casey Wehrenberg, a recent graduate of Oklahoma State University’s Oklahoma City campus, told the panel he believes a trained gun owner with a firearm on campus could provide another layer of protection in case there was an active shooter or a violent crime occurring.
“We need to take into consideration the fact that a gun-free zone, that invisible line around a campus, is not going to protect those students,” Wehrenberg said.
Still, Johnson said a recent poll shows college students overwhelmingly oppose the idea.
Parker Schultz, a senior finance major at OSU, said he agrees with college presidents that trained law enforcement officers should be the only ones allowed to carry guns on campus.
“I own guns. I feel confident in my ability to handle a gun,” said Schultz, who’s from Wichita Falls, Texas. “But I don’t necessarily have full confidence in someone else who might have a gun on campus.”
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