Guns in Schools

George Pernsteiner, Chancellor of the Oregon University System.

In 2009, police arrested a Western Oregon University student at the student union with a concealed handgun and knife in his pocket. Later, the Newberg School District sought, and failed, to keep guns from its schools. These cases ignited a strongly-contested conflict about guns on the campus of Oregon state universities and other state schools. Under Oregon law, any citizen at least 21 years old without prior law infractions can pay a small fee, get a license and carry a concealed handgun. While most universities have historically had a policy not allowing guns on campus, a November 2011 Oregon Appeals Court case between Oregon Universities and the Oregon Firearms Federation, a political action committee, held that state universities could not ban students from carrying concealed weapons in Oregon state universities. State Representative Kim Thatcher of Marion and Yamhill counties, and the Oregon Firearms Federation, have been leading proponents of repealing the gun ban in universities and in school districts. Oregon University System chancellor, George Pernsteiner, and others have fought for tighter control in banning guns from state schools.

George Pernsteiner

Chancellor of the Oregon University System

The Oregon University System believes that prohibiting guns on our campuses has been and is an effective safety system for our students and campus community. While we respect Oregonians’ right to legally carry concealed weapons, we also strongly believe that there are places where firearms should not be allowed. Besides airplanes and federal courts of law, prohibiting guns at our public universities is an important measure to ensure a safe environment.

Concerns about firearms on campus include the potential for accidental firing or misuse of guns where large numbers of students and the public congregate, especially when alcohol or drugs are being consumed. Most recent statistics show that gun accidents annually kill Oregonians, with four deaths in 2009 alone. On-campus counselors have stressed their concern that the presence of firearms also creates a more dangerous environment for students who are struggling with mental health problems and may use a weapon as effective means to take their own life.

University public safety officers have testified before the State Board of Higher Education about witnessing the tragic finality that firearms can bring to situations. What may be fleeting thoughts or actions by an individual can bring irreparable harm when a gun is present. There is also a real concern among law enforcement officers that, when responding to a situation involving an active shooter on a campus, they may not be able to distinguish between the shooter and “good guys” with firearms.

Campuses must be safe environments where students can engage in learning without fear, and feel secure in a robust exchange of ideas. Our responsibility is to ensure that college is first and foremost an environment of inquiry and civil engagement, and a training ground for our next generation of leaders. Banning weapons on campus is the best way to ensure this.

Kevin Starrett

Director, Oregon Firearms Federation

The opponents of self defense firearms on college campuses have relied on a few false and often repeated arguments.

Invariably, they argue that college students are too immature, too drunk or too emotionally unstable to be trusted with firearms. They claim that college students would use guns to resolve disputes or shoot themselves over the end of a romance. Their second argument is that guns serve no defensive purpose on a college campus because in the event of a need for a defensive tool, the (late) responding police could never determine who was the “good guy” and who was the criminal, and, as a result, more innocent people would be killed. A variation on that unsupportable theme is that allowing trained, licensed people to have the ability to defend themselves would only create more gunfire and more folks shot in the crossfire.

If any of this were true, why allow people to carry concealed firearms anywhere? Where would these unproven allegations not apply? Why are college students (who hardly can all be pigeon-holed by age, maturity or personality) not be killing themselves and others off campus? It is, and has always been, lawful for a licensed person to carry a concealed handgun on the property of Oregon state universities. Where is the carnage that they predicted?

College campuses are no different from any other location. There is nothing that makes firearms turn otherwise rational, trained people into dangerous lunatics.

Time after time, colleges have been the scene of horrific mass murders because the people there were denied the ability to protect themselves. Oregon Universities should not deprive trained adults the ability to keep themselves and those around them alive when faced with a deadly threat.

Join the Conversation


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. says: ToryII

    Any American who wants weapon control laws is a traitor.

    Democracy allows 50.10% of voters to give the Govt permission to ignore the 2nd amendment and ban our weapons, and then the Govt can eliminate democracy.

  2. says: Ed Dunnigan

    Yet another pusillanimous lickspittle projects his cowardice upon the rest of us. Just because you, Mr. Persteiner, don't trust yourself with possession of a firearm does not mean that we cannot be trusted. The law allows CHL holders to carry on campus. Should the unthinkable happen, you will be grateful that better people than yourself were prepared to respond.

  3. says: daniel kenoyer

    George Pernsteiner, Chancellor of the Oregon University System opines:
    "Concerns about firearms on campus include the potential for accidental firing or misuse of guns where large numbers of students and the public congregate, especially when alcohol or drugs are being consumed."
    Wow. So the university system under your chancellorship is rife with illicit drugs and alcohol abuse, and our solution is to ban guns?
    I think I can see what's wrong with your "higher" education system already…

  4. says: Dick Getty

    For Chancellor Pernsteiner:

    Given that the Oregon university system, under your direction, has, in violation of Oregon State Statutes, banned CHL carriers from public property:

    If my son, a CHL holder, complies with your illegal regulation and is present and injured or killed on university property in a like manner as those in the recent Colorado incident, would he, or if he was killed, his heirs, likely be successful in a legal action against you personally?

    I think you should consult a good lawyer and maybe rethink this.

  5. says: Dick Getty

    The theater in Colorado was a company imposed "Gun Free Zone".

    Ask the survivors how much comfort they take in that.

  6. says: RegT

    The school administrators demonstrate their ignorance and bias once more. I carried my .45 ACP Glock every day I attended nursing school at an Oregon community college back in 1998 through 2000. It never once lept into my hand and threatened or killed anyone.

    Of course, being in my late forties at the time, it could be argued that I possessed a little more maturity than some of the younger students, but it would not have made a damn bit of difference to my school's administration. Even though it was legal, per Oregon state law, they would have kicked me out of the nursing program and forced me to fight my way back in via court (if I had had the time and the money, which I didn't at that time). I _do_ believe, however, that the younger students had as much right to carry as I did. A couple of my male classmates might have done so if they had been a little ballsier 🙂

    Nonetheless, it was important to me to exercise my personal right to carry (plus, I did possess a valid CHL at the time), and it gave me great pleasure to know the b – er, the witches (anyone who has ever been in a nursing program anywhere in this country knows what I am taking about) who were my instructors would have given birth to cows if they had known. I thought about going back after I graduated to rub their noses in it, but I didn't want to spoil it for anyone else exercising the same right in classes following mine.

  7. says: Woody W Woodward

    I would like to see a breakdown of all injuries and/or deaths associated with Oregon university and college affiliated and/or promoted athletic programs (rifle, shotgun and/or pistol teams, if any, included) compared to the number of injuries and/or deaths related to the permitted/legal carrying of concealed weapons on university/college campuses.