A concealed weapons permit only ensures the holder's safety.
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A concealed weapons permit only ensures the holder's safety.

The issue of concealed weapons on campus has recently stirred emotions on both sides of the debate. Much has been printed about murder rates, suicide and accidental deaths, and much of this has obscured the real question: Am I safe?

As a student, I want the safest learning environment possible. I certainly won’t make light of what has happened at Virginia Tech or any other campus. But I do wish to put things in perspective.

What is a concealed weapon permit? Why does anyone need one? Are the people around me dangerous?

Concealed weapon permits only sound scary. Just like a driver’s license allows you to operate a vehicle, this permit allows someone to carry a concealed firearm, as opposed to drive a Prius – though both may be equally dangerous.

Permit holders are fingerprinted and screened through state, federal and international databases. They are taught that the firearm is for SELF-defense only. It does not make the bearer a cop, deputy or a vigilante hero.

The permit comes with a heavy legal responsibility. Holders are responsible for their firearm every second of the day. “I didn’t know it was loaded” is not a legal defense. More than one person has gone to prison for carelessness with a gun.

The question remains, though: Do these firearm carrying students make our campus safer?

Of course not. That was never their purpose. A concealed weapon only protects the individual, and allows him or her the option to defend him or herself. We are neither more nor less safe.

This leads to yet another question. Why in our modern society would anyone feel the need to carry a weapon? We have police. We have cameras. We have laws.

Yes, we have all these things in spades. But the Trolley Square shooter walked right past the sign informing mall patrons that firearms were not allowed on the premises. Did it make a difference?

Police are capable of many things but individual safety is not one of them. With response times ranging from six to 45 minutes, many cops will admit that in some situations all they can do is zip up the body bag. They simply cannot be everywhere.

Would it be safer if there were no guns? Six years in prison have shown me that violence will exist no matter what tools are available. I have seen men killed with bare fists, rolled-up magazines, a boiled egg, a spoon and other everyday items, each one as gruesome as the last.

It is these kinds of violence against which permit holders seek to arm themselves. Those that I have spoken with share a desire to be safe on campus and feel this is the best course of action. If you wonder what type of student would bring a gun to class, look around. The answer may surprise you – but it shouldn’t frighten you.