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Group pushes for on-campus guns

BY MADISON BENNETT | MAY 06, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa freshman Joey Gallagher walked around campus with an empty gun holster strapped to his belt on Thursday.

Though the 18-year-old cannot yet legally carry a gun, he thinks permit-holders should have the right to carry on college campuses.

“I’m not advocating for people to go play Batman or vigilante,” he said. “But less crime happens when good guys have guns.”

His empty holster was part of the new UI chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus’s Empty Holster Protest, which attempts to draw attention to campus violence.

Though Iowa changedits law this year to loosen restrictions on who may carry guns, becoming a “shall-issue” state, firearms and explosives are still prohibited on college campuses. But the group argues people who possess gun permits shouldn’t have to put down their weapons simply because they go on campus.

“What the law does is disarm people who want to protect themselves,” said August Meyer, the UI chapter’s founder.

Students for Concealed Carry is a national organization that formed in response to the 2005 Virgina Tech University shooting. It aims to spark discussion that will eventually create safer campuses rather than campuses that just appear safe, said Tony Taylor, the central regional director for the group.

The purpose of the Empty Holster Protest is to draw attention to this the issue, one that has gained national attention, he said.

“Drawing attention to the issue is the first step in changing the laws and policies that guarantee victims will go defenseless,” he said.

The Empty Holster Protest had approximately 10 participants, and it was the group’s introduction to campus.

“This is our way of saying, ‘Hey, we exist,’ but it’s also our last hurrah [this year],” Meyers said. “We will be back.”

Fifteen states give colleges the right to allow guns on campus, according to the group’s website. Only Utah prohibits colleges from putting restrictions on firearms.

In Idaho, a bill in the House would allow guns on college campuses throughout the state.

“There’s a stigma around a gun-free zone,” said Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, Idaho, the bill’s coauthor. “That stigma is: It’s a great place for bad guys to do bad things.”

The goal was to make the law consistent with Idaho’s position as an “open-carry” state — meaning people can carry guns in all areas. He said he agrees being able to carry guns makes college campuses safer.

“Having a zone that is not declared as gun-free is a deterrent in itself,” he said.

But Ronald Stephens, the executive director of the National School Safety Center in Westlake Village, Calif., said weapons have no business being on college campus.

“Every time you have more weapons available, it increases the likelihood of firearms going off,” he said. “The last thing I would want is a bunch of students carrying guns.”

UI senior Chase Oler, a member of the UI’s Student for Concealed Carry, said carrying guns is more of a preventative measure.

“It is the best way to stop a mass shooting,” Oler said. “These things do happen.”


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