Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Students advocate for concealed guns at UW

In the wake of the recent killings in the Madison area, a student group advocating for the concealed carrying of weapons on campus has been gaining more attention.

Bret Bostwick, campus leader of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, said he first thought of starting a University of Wisconsin chapter of the group after the Virginia Tech shooting last year. After the shooting, he said he wondered whether the tragedy “could have played out any differently.”

“We can’t say for sure that a concealed handgun license holder in one of those classrooms would have prevented the shooting, but we can say for certain it would even the odds,” he said.

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Bostwick said one of the group’s main goals is to open up a dialogue about campus safety, an issue of increasing relevance after the recent death of a UW student. The group believes only students who have gone through adequate training, education and background checks should be allowed to carry concealed weapons.

“We don’t want to just hand guns to students,” he said. “We are talking about licensed, trained individuals that have completed a background check.”

According to Bostwick, concealed carry laws are actually the norm in the country, and Wisconsin and Illinois are the only two states that don’t have some form of a concealed carry law.

Bostwick said it is easy to assume that gun-free zones are a good idea, until you look at it from a criminal’s perspective. He said criminals look upon gun-free zones as areas where they know people will be unarmed and vulnerable.

“Laws against concealed carry don’t stop criminals from carrying guns,” he said. “Criminals don’t obey the law. The law instead prevents good, trained people from being able to protect themselves and other innocent people.”

Bostwick said Students for Concealed Carry on Campus faces a double hurdle because they must advocate both for concealed carry statewide, as well as on the UW campus. Many states that have concealed carry laws still prohibit concealed weapons in public areas like college campuses.

The UW chapter of the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is not the only advocate for changing Wisconsin gun laws.

In 2006, Rep. Frank Lasee, R-Bellevue, in response to the fatal shooting of a high school principal in Cazenovia, proposed legislation that would allow trained school staff and teachers to carry weapons in Wisconsin schools.

The legislation ultimately failed but did spark a debate about public safety and gun laws in Wisconsin.

According to UW Police Department Lt. Eric Holen, university police would still oppose concealed carrying on campus, even if it became legal statewide.

“The person carrying the weapon may feel more safe and more in control,” he said. “But the person next to them may or may not feel more safe if they know people around them are carrying guns.”

Holen said people cannot solely rely on a weapon to protect themselves. He said personal safety has to be multifaceted and that while students should be aware of their surroundings, they should also work to control their environment as best they can. He also said using SAFE services and self-defense classes are options.

According to Holen, the No. 1 way to stay safe is to avoid isolation.

“People can learn some really cool self-defense moves,” he said. “But wouldn’t it be better to be aware and perceive the threat and avoid the big fight altogether?”

The Students for Concealed Carry on Campus will be having an empty-holster protest on campus from April 21-25, when members will be walking around campus with empty holsters. The group will be holding a meeting regarding the protest Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. in the Memorial Union.

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