About two months ago, a man walked into a Salt Lake City grocery store, bought a steak knife and stabbed someone in the parking lot. What could have ended in tragedy didn’t, thanks to a fellow shopper who had his concealed-carry permit and weapon on him. He successfully got the assailant to lie on the ground until the police arrived on the scene.
Ryan Hulegaard recalls this story, which happened about six blocks from his campus, the University of Utah. The university allows concealed carry and open carry, something that Hulegaard, a rising junior, said he is glad they have.
But his school isn’t the only one.
A recent USA TODAY article reported the University of Colorado – Boulder and Colorado Springs are segregating dorms for their students who have the permits to carry concealed weapons. Students at CU – Boulder will live in family-housing units, while students at CU – Colorado Springs can reside in an upperclassman dorm, though that will be the only dorm where guns are allowed.
For students who have a permit and want to live in the dorms at the University of Utah, they can do so by storing their firearm for free at the campus police station. This isn’t a rare practice; at UC – Boulder, students can currently store or retrieve their weapons any time at their station on campus.
David Burnett, the director of public relations for Students for Concealed Carry, said his organization is very pleased with UC – Boulder’s decision in “allowing students and faculty to participate in their own self-protection rather than rely on the goodwill of criminals.”
Although they have concerns that asking students to either disarm or relocate their firearms is creating a “separate but equal environment,” they recognize the college has many interests in play. The organization has reached out to the school, received a response and look forward to possible collaboration.
In the end, Burnett acknowledges both have the same goal in mind: the safety of anyone on campus.
Hulegaard said that he feels safer being around responsible people carrying firearms and, as a student at the University of Utah, is surrounded by them every day.
“I feel that criminals are less willing to attack in such areas because you just really don’t know who is and who isn’t going to defend themselves with firepower,” he said. “And for that fact, how many more people around have guns as well — you could easily find yourself overpowered.”
But, there’s not always a benefit to that. The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators stated on Armed Campuses, “There is a real concern that campus police officers responding to a situation involving an active shooter may not be able to distinguish between the shooter and others with firearms.”
It’s an idea echoed by Colin Goddard, who was shot four times during the Virginia Tech tragedy. He testified against guns on campus and said, “That was the craziest day of my life with one person walking around with two guns. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like with multiple students and multiple guns.”
But Hulegaard said he views the stronger presence of firearms as the answer, not the problem. He notes many have the permit so that they can defend themselves and others, and not all have evil intentions.
“For every one James Holmes, or Wade Michael Page, there are hundreds of good, honest, sane and responsible citizens who carry firearms,” Hulegaard said. “It only takes one bullet to stop a human being. Just imagine if there was one person in that Aurora theater with a gun.”
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