Campus gun law bill being revised
Colleges could use discretion to ban concealed firearms from all campus buildings, but would have to allow guns in open outdoor spaces, under revisions to a bill being considered by a House committee.
Public colleges and universities are currently exempt from a statute that prohibits local governments from overriding state gun laws. The University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College all have ordinances barring firearms from campus, except for those carried by campus police.
Last week, House Bill 5474 was introduced to the Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resources Committee. The original bill would have erased campus ordinances and allowed those with concealed weapons permits to carry firearms anywhere on campus, except for classrooms, dormitories and stadiums, where guns are prohibited under a separate law.
After hearing testimony and consulting with the Michigan Community College Association - which represents the interests of 28 community colleges statewide - committee members decided to re-write portions of the bill, according to Brady Schickinger, chief of staff for Rep. Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch, chair of the House panel.
The revised bill would allow institutions to ban concealed pistol license holders from carrying a gun in all enclosed areas on campuses, such as museums and student unions. Those with permits could carry firearms on roads, sidewalks, green space and other open spaces.
Larry Whitworth, president of Washtenaw Community College, said he remains opposed to the legislation, regardless of recent revisions.
"I don't see any purpose for concealed weapons on campus, whether you've got a permit or not, it's potentially dangerous," Whitworth said. "The notion that when you've got people with concealed weapons, if someone goes berserk there'll be people there to take them down - that doesn't make a lick of sense. We can't have people getting into gunfights on campus. The regular security force or the police wouldn't know who's who and what their role would be to get it back under control. We need to leave law enforcement in the hands of law enforcement."
"The gun lobby has their people saying everyone ought to have a gun, and if we have more and more people carrying guns we'll all be safer, which is totally absurd," Whitworth added.
Schickinger said the House committee will seek consultation from the Presidents Council, The State Universities of Michigan, which serves the state's 15 public universities, before moving forward. It's unlikely a panel vote will be taken on the bill before December, he said, and any final decision by the Legislature is months away.Â
If approved, the bill would move to the full House for a vote. With House approval, the Senate would then consider the legislation.
Meanwhile, a group called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, which says it has 41,000 supporters nationwide, has endorsed the bill. A press release issued by the group this week says it has prompted legislation in more than 20 states in the past two years.
In a press release, the lobbyist group notes colleges in Utah and Colorado are allowed to carry concealed firearms "with no reported surge in violence," and campuses in Arizona and South Carolina recently began allowing citizens to keep firearms locked in cars
The group tracks gun legislation for college campuses by state on its Web site.
"Whether it's a lone female student on her way back home from the library, or facing a madman with a gun on campus, students, faculty or staff of a college who are authorized by the state to carry shouldn't be deprived of that right just because they're on campus," Dave Burnett, spokesman for the group, said in a press release.
To obtain a concealed weapons permit, an applicant must be a 21 years old, a U.S. citizen and a Michigan resident for at least six months, with some exceptions. Applicants must have a record clear of various crimes and complete a safety training course.