In August 2019, a social media account that advocated for open-carry weapon policies on Lewis & Clark’s campus was created. While this account was admittedly made in jest, it seems pertinent to give a response. The initial impulse for some might be to dismiss the notion of an open-carry campus as merely a politicized talking point, but it remains a legitimate argument that has been made in a variety of different settings, including state legislatures and online forums.
In this instance, the central argument gun rights advocates would likely make is that not having an open-carry campus infringes on the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as well as the commitment LC has made toward keeping the student body safe. There are a couple of relevant counterpoints here.
First, LC is not a publicly-funded institution. Rather, it is a private institution, which means that the executive or ruling body can determine its own set of rules in regard to safety. The Second Amendment exists as a protective instrument of the state, which primarily operates as a public resource; when a citizen resides within the private sphere, it is the surrounding institutions’ responsibility to ensure the safety of the citizen.
Additionally, the legal validity of a measure depends on precedence and necessity. There is little precedence when it comes to enforcing open-carry policies on educational institutions, particularly private ones. The fact remains that, historically speaking, entities like LC have been free to regulate their security affairs without government intervention.
In terms of necessity, I would argue that a lack of conceivable threats makes the need for an open-carry policy difficult to discern. Violent crimes, especially those involving weapons, rarely happen on campus or in the surrounding neighborhood. Suffice it to say, on-campus cougars present the greatest threat to the LC community at the present moment.
LC has also effectively fulfilled its safety commitment to the student body already. Data indicates that threats of a violent nature are seldom found on campus, making the presence of weaponry pointless. On the off chance that one was to arise, LC employs a campus police force that are equipped to deal with the emergence of a threat.
Moreover, it is conceivable that implementing an open-carry policy runs the risk of degrading the very area it seeks to enhance: security. Not only would armed students and teachers give LC campus police an added, unnecessary worry, but it could also lead directly to violence. It is logical that when you allow someone to have something, the odds of them using it increase substantially; when it comes to firearms, this is exactly what people do not want.
Irrespective of how you personally feel about this issue, it is important that we collectively address it as a community through civil discourse. The open-carry social media account, though satirical in nature, represents the emergence of a running dialogue that will make progress toward reaching common ground between open-carry advocates and dissenters. Gun control is a multi-faceted topic with many sides to discuss; let’s make sure that we cover them all.