Concealed carry takes center stage on campus: Professors’ perspective

By Linda Wilkins
City Editor

The talk of concealed carry on college campuses has sparked a debate among Baylor professors.

State Sen. Brian Birdwell submitted Senate Bill 182 on Jan. 17, which would allow concealed carry on college campuses. Private universities will have the option to opt out.

Dr. Earl Grinols, Distinguished Professor of Economics at Baylor, said he agrees with the bill Birdwell proposed.

“My view is simple,” Grinols said. “The issue boils down to the probabilities.”

Grinols said the probability of a person with the intent to kill students on campus is small. The main question is how that probability would change if the bill passes.

Grinols said if a criminal with a weapon and an intent to kill were to enter a classroom with students who are unarmed, then no one could defend themselves. However, if a criminal enters a classroom where at least one student or faculty member is armed, then someone could defend the classroom.

Grinols also said if criminals knows people in a classroom could be armed, then they are less likely to enter the classroom. If they know no one should have a gun in the classroom, the probability of them going into the classroom and injuring someone is higher.

“The probabilities of all of these events are tiny, but move in a good direction because of Birdwell’s bill,” Grinols said. He said the bill is likely to save lives.

Grinols said he read about the letter Dr. Blake Burleson, associate dean for undergratuate studies of arts and sciences, and Dr. Robin Wallace, musicology professor, wrote and submitted to Birdwell’s office. The letter, which was signed by 120 faculty members at Baylor, explains why the professors are opposed to allowing concealed carry on college campuses. Grinols said they are reacting based on their emotions.

“They are engaging in emotionalism,” Grinols said.

Grinols said he believes if they were to think about the probabilities then they could realize they are actually hurting people by writing the letter.

As the Lariat previously reported, one argument against the bill was the quality of education would decrease because potential professors would not want to teach at a school where guns are allowed.

Grinols said he disagrees with this statement.

“I think they are wrong,” Grinols said. “These same professors go to shopping malls and other public places all the time. People are now allowed to carry there, so they are going places where permits are already allowed.”

He also said if concealed weapon carriers pull their guns on a shooter on campus and the campus police arrive, then the police will pull out their weapons and tell everyone else to drop theirs. He said they could easily determine who is a concealed carrier and who the actual shooter is because the concealed carriers would put their weapons down.

Grinols said he has studied national crime data which shows crime rates do not increase with the allowance of concealed carry.

“I can tell you that right to carry reduces crimes or has no impact on the crime records I have,” he said. “The logic is that criminals tend to go places where they know they can engage in their criminal activity. I know crime impact is zero or helpful.”

In addition to Grinols, another Baylor professor, who asked not to be named, said he agrees with Birdwell’s bill.

“I am personally in favor of concealed carry everywhere,” he said. He also said he understands there needs to be a need for concealed carry in certain locations.

He said he attended concealed handgun license classes and has had his permit for six months. He said participants in those classes are made aware of legal restrictions such as where they are not allowed to carry. He said the burdens of having a concealed license are also explained in the class.

“Being in Texas, you actually go out to the range and practice,” he said. “It’s a very practical course.”

The professor said obtaining a concealed handgun license does not involve only a class and includes a background check as well. He said this background check is more extensive than a background check to purchase a weapon. To get a concealed carry permit, people are fingerprinted whereas to purchase a gun they are not.

The professor said he didn’t agree with the letter written by Burleson and Wallace.

“I will say that I understand this is a difficult issue and I understand there are several different parties involved,” he said. “I don’t know that it’s a wise policy to announce that college campuses are gun-free zones. That allows the danger to increase on college campuses.”

At the time of publication, there were other professors interviewed who support the bill but who declined comment.

Although these two professors support the bill, there are several others that disagree with it.

Dr. Robert Kruschwitz, professor of philosophy and the director of the Center for Christian Ethics, said he is opposed to the bill.

“There’s a lot of things that people have a moral right to do, but for good reason we limit how they can do that and why they can do that,” Kruschwitz said.

He said the use of weapons on colleges and universities should be regulated.

“I want to emphasize that it seems to me that the way to think about the issue is to look at the push for freedom or to look at safety,” he said.

Kruschwitz, who signed the letter by Burleson and Wallace, said he believes requiring people to taking training classes in order to get a license is good, but he does not think that the class makes the people experts.

“I don’t think that it means they are as well versed as using those weapons as say policemen,” he said “Campuses are safe because they have their own police forces and they’ve had training in how to use them in dangerous situations.”
Dr. Susan Bratton, a professor in the department of environmental science, also said she disagrees with the bill and the professional security on campus has a good presence.

“In the case of an emergency, we can depend on them,” she said.

Bratton also said the controversy over the topic is not focused on higher education.

“It’s a case of individual rights,” she said. “We would really do better for the university if we ask what is appropriate in this setting and what’s best for everyone in the long run.”

Dr. Heidi Bostic, professor of French and the chair of the department of modern foreign languages, said she also disagrees with the bill.

“Allowing concealed carry will not make campuses more peaceful or safe,” she said.

Bostic said college campuses have an environment that must be safe. She also said concealed carry would not support free speech because people would worry whether someone has a concealed weapon.

Dr. George Cobb, professor of environmental science, said he does not believe people should have that potential escalating capability in a university environment. He said more people would be able to initiate violence if the bill is passed.

Dr. Stan Denman, professor and chairman of the department of theater arts, said the pressure of working with other people on a college campus can lead to volatile situations.

Denman also said he believes the background checks for the concealed carry permits cannot predict the future.

“You can train someone to use a gun, you can give them all kinds of background checks,” Denman said. “It’s not a crystal ball. It doesn’t tell you whether there is mental illness in their future.”

Dr. Keith Sanford, an associate professor in the psychology department, also said the training does not prevent people from having a psychological condition.

“How much can I be guaranteed that person is not going to have a mental response,” Sanford said.

Dr. Curt Nichols, assistant professor of political science, wrote in an email to the Lariat he believes people should read the bill to understand its context. In addition, he said if the bill passes, then Baylor most likely still won’t allow concealed carry on campus.

“If Senate Bill 182 passes in its current form, Baylor won’t have to allow conceal carry on campus,” Nichols said. “They can still elect to criminalize carrying weapons into buildings on campus – via criminal trespass. Therefore, my prediction is if the current bill passes, nothing will change at Baylor.”

Nichols also said Baylor could develop a compromise where students and faculty with military or law enforcement experience could be allowed to carry on college campuses.

“If the bill passes, Baylor should take a close look at the liability waiver language within it,” Nichols said. “It may be possible to gain broad institutional liability protection by allowing very limited individual conceal carry privileges­­ — say to trained faculty and staff volunteers along with trained students who have military or law enforcement experience. This is the kind of compromise I could support — if the bill passes.”