Student groups supporting the right to carry concealed weapons on campus are preparing to push for legislation in their favor when state governments reconvene in January.
David Burnett, board member at large for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, said in an e-mail Friday the goal of the organization is to ensure holders of concealed handgun permits can enjoy the same rights on college campuses that current laws afford them virtually everywhere else.
According to Burnett, SCCC formed shortly after the Virginia Tech shooting as a national non-partisan grassroots organization comprised of students, faculty, parents of college students and “concerned citizens.”
Since its beginning, the SCCC has grown in popularity and now includes a chapter at UW, Burnett added.
“The benefit of carrying concealed weapons on campus is the same as it is anywhere else where people carry concealed: self-defense,” Burnett said.
Howard Schweber, associate professor of political science at UW, said although SCCC has presented self-defense as a legitimate reason to carry weapons, reason does not translate into a legal or constitutional right.
“Being a student at college means living within the regulations and authority of that college,” Schweber said. “I have never heard of a university that permits carrying concealed weapons.”
Burnett said Wisconsin is relatively unique in that the state does not have a statutory provision for concealed carry. However, there are statutes pertaining to where concealed weapons can or cannot be carried.
Specifically looking at campus buildings, Wisconsin statute states “any person who goes armed with a firearm in any building owned or leased by the state or any political subdivision of the state is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”
The statute also maintains that self-defense is not a justification for carrying a concealed weapon.
Dane County Assistant District Attorney Mike Verveer said he supports the Wisconsin law for concealed weapons as it currently exists.
“I think that allowing people to carry concealed weapons is a recipe for disaster, and I respectfully disagree with those who advocate their use,” Verveer said.
Although he acknowledges why some believe students should be armed in light of the “awful incidents that have occurred recently throughout the country,” Verveer said he believes this method is the wrong way to approach personal safety on campus.
“I believe that having students, faculty and staff armed with weapons would only perhaps cause more of these tragedies to occur and not less,” Verveer said. “Whether a tragedy occurs in the heat of the moment or under the influence of something, if you are armed, this will increase the potential for a weapon to be used.”
According to Verveer, Madison used to have stricter handgun control ordinances than those of the state government. However, in the late 1990s, groups such as the National Rifle Association were able to convince state legislators that local governments should not be able to have their own gun control laws.
“The state government is generally very permissive in giving cities leeway to legislate a wide variety of issues, so it’s frustrating when laws are taken away from us,” Verveer said. “In the case of gun regulation, this issue is right up there on that list.”
According to Burnett, in past legislative sessions, 15 states have considered bills in favor of SCCC.
“Most states adjourned without passing anything, but we look for more legislation on this issue as state legislatures begin to meet again,” Burnett said. “Our efforts are ramping up for this upcoming year.”