By Maria Grzywa —
Recently, the UW System’s exemption from Wisconsin’s concealed carry law came up for debate. Wisconsin State Legislators Jesse Kremer and Devin LeMahieu proposed a legislation that would revoke the exemption. The proposal was circulated by Representative Kremer and Senator LeMahieu Monday, Oct. 12 in search of co-sponsors.
The UW System and technical colleges are currently exempt from Wisconsin’s concealed carry law and therefore can ban concealed carry within campus buildings. University of Wisconsin–Stout’s current regulations state that students cannot have any weapons within campus buildings.
“The unfortunate reality is that campus gun-free zones merely serve to concentrate populations of vulnerable targets on campus and surrounding areas,” said Kremer and LeMahieu in a memo they sent to legislators.
The proposal, brought to attention just a few short days after the Oct. 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, is meant to help college students who feel unsafe walking to classes unarmed.
Kremer assured Wisconsin residents in an interview with Matt Kittle on radio WIBA-AM that the proposal was not a response to the shooting but should become a deterrent to crime on and around campuses.
Although their intentions are noble and meant to increase students’ campus safety, Kremer and LeMahieu are under fire as schools across the UW System are expressing their concerns and hoping that the proposal will not pass through legislation.
In a press release by University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee’s Student Association, President Mike Sportiello addresses Milwaukee’s disapproval of the proposal.
“While the intention is one we can all get behind at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, we also realize that what truly matters is the outcome of such important, impactful legislation and not just idealistic intentions,” said Sportiello.
Similar opinions are shared by Stout’s SSA President Eric Huse. “I agree with our legislators that student safety is of utmost importance. However, the notion that permitting guns in university buildings will create a safer environment is backward thinking,” said Huse.
Gun control has long been a debate across the nation. From movie theaters in Colorado to school campuses throughout the United States, mass shootings have contributed to many people’s apprehensions towards conceal and carry. According to a survey of news reports by The Huffington Post, in 2013, “at least 27 shootings occurred on or near college campuses.”
Kremer and LeMahieu argue that students should not be denied their Second Amendment right. “We’re basically treating our college students as lesser citizens,” Kremer said in his interview with Kittle.
“We need to base our decision of how to best create a safe society on evidence and peer-reviewed research before we choose to flood our classrooms, workout facilities and residence halls were we eat and sleep, with weapons,” said Sportiello.
Speaking of research, Charles D. Philips, Texas A&M health sciences professor writes in his recently published article in the Journal of Criminology: “CHL (concealed handgun license) licensing rates did not have a significant, negative or positive, effect on subsequent crime rates.”
“The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder,” Stanford Law Professor John Donohue said in an interview with the Stanford Report in 2014.
Across the UW System opinions of distress and concern are shared. UW System President Ray Cross and UW Chancellors released a joint statement in response to the proposed bill: “We take the safety of our campus communities very seriously and know that our legislative partners do as well. We have significant concerns and questions with this proposal and cannot currently support it. We are, however, actively engaged in a dialogue with the legislative authors, Regents and campus police professionals to ensure our concerns are addressed.”
“I ask [legislature] to vote and speak against this bill to keep our college campuses safe,” said Sportiello.
Stout SSA President Huse agrees with Sportiello in his SSA statement, “Safety is the number one concern I have for UW–Stout students. In my eyes, this legislation does nothing but put students at even greater risk of unnecessary violence. This bill does not create a solution to the terrible issue of campus violence, but rather contributes to it.”