In December 2016, Ohio Governor John Kasich signed a bill that allowed concealed weapon permit holders to bring firearms onto private property such as college campuses and daycare facilities. This new law will take effect March 19, 2017. It should be noted that previously, Senate Bill 199 (ohiosenate.gov) provided “blanket prohibition on firearms at those locations and the public area of airport terminals, before security checkpoints” (Cleveland.com). However, in signing this bill, permit holders are now allowed to bring guns to campus however the gun must be secured in a parked vehicle on the property. Guns are still not allowed inside buildings or classrooms.
How are Ohio colleges and universities responding to this new law? Some colleges and universities are seeking recommendations from their respective boards of trustees. A survey taken from Cleveland.com provided insight into on-campus discussions. For example, Alex Johnson, president of Cuyahoga Community College (Cleveland) stated via email, “I know this bill has been a topic of discussion across the College, and our faculty has brought various concerns to campus leadership and to me for clarification. I have been in close communication with Tri-C Board Chair Victor Ruiz and the other trustees about this matter.Tri-C’s Board of Trustees has no intention of taking action to permit concealed carry in Tri-C facilities.” Action taken from the trustees at Ohio University (Athens, OH) stated, “Whereas the full and free discussion of potentially controversial ideas and knowledge is essential to the academic mission of the University; and Whereas the possible presence of concealed weapons in instructional spaces and faculty offices will have a chilling effect on the free exchange of ideas; BE IT RESOLVED that the Faculty Senate urges the Ohio University Board of Trustees to take no action that would allow concealed carry on any of our campuses in order to reaffirm our commitment to a weapon free campus,” the Faculty Resolution states. Read the full article here, survey.
Does this new concealed carry law make colleges and universities safer? There is no clear cut answer but rather more questions about self-defense vs increased incidents of violence due to a concealed firearm. According to the article, “Hundreds Killed by Guns in Workplace” from the Dayton Daily News, Lynn Husley reported that “Firearms were the cause of about one-tenth of workplace fatalities in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).” Read the full article here, Workplace. Incidentally, how do college students feel about conceal carry weapons laws? Again, responses vary. In a 2013 survey from Ball State University, “Seventy eight percent of students, who were surveyed at 15 Midwestern colleges and universities, expressed opposition to concealed weapons”. Read survey, here. On the other hand, there’s a website dedicated to conceal carry supporters called “Students for Concealed Weapons”.
Gun control laws will always be controversial. When this new Ohio law takes effect, it will be interesting to see how college and university administration, students, faculty, and staff respond to these changes.