Friday, October 7, 2011

Oregon Should Ban Guns On Public College Campuses

Continuing on the topic introduced in a previous post....

This op-ed by Ceasefire Oregon was published on October 4, 2011,
without footnotes, on page B7 of The Oregonian and at
We have added the footnotes below.

Oregon should ban guns on public college campuses

A long-standing ban on guns on Oregon public college campuses was overturned by the Oregon Court of Appeals on September 28. The court held that the Oregon State Board of Higher Education lacked the necessary legal authority to regulate firearms on Oregon college campuses. The court’s decision was on a narrow and technical legal issue, but it left more than 90,000 students suddenly vulnerable to an influx of firearms on campus.

Guns on college campuses pose a significant risk to college students. Research shows that gun-owning college students are more likely than other students to engage in risky behavior (including binge drinking), use cocaine or crack, be arrested for a DUI, vandalize property, and get in trouble with police.1 Rather than offering a measure of protection, gun ownership among students is associated with behaviors that are likely to put the owners and others at risk for injury. A drunken college party is a risky place; a drunken college party with a loaded gun is much more dangerous.

Suicide is another major risk that guns pose to college students. Over 1,000 college students commit suicide each year, and an additional 24,000 attempts are made.2 Last spring, the University of Oregon’s Daily Emerald reported that 55 percent of college students consider committing suicide. (“Learning to Cope,” Oregon Daily Emerald, April 22, 2011.)

Restricting access to lethal means significantly reduces the risk of impulsive suicide.3 Nine out of ten people who survive a suicide attempt will not die by suicide later in life.4 But if a gun is used in a suicide attempt, more than 90 percent of the time it is fatal, compared with a 3 percent fatality rate for suicide attempts by drug overdose.5 Some campus gun owners may be well-trained and responsible, but a friend or roommate’s gun can be as lethal as one’s own. Keeping guns off campus gives students time to reconsider.

Personal weapons do not provide meaningful protection against the horrific school shootings that have grabbed headlines in recent years. Reacting under the extreme stress of a school shooting, the civilian shooter poses a grave threat to students and staff, who can be caught in the crossfire. Even trained police officers, on average, hit their intended targets less than 20 percent of the time.6 In a survey of over 400 campus police chiefs, 86 percent of them disagreed or strongly disagreed that "allowing students to carry concealed weapons on campus would prevent some or all campus killings."7 That opinion is shared by Colin Goddard, a student survivor of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, who experienced firsthand the chaos of a campus shooting.8

Gov. John Kitzhaber and the Oregon Legislature need to act immediately to ban guns in Oregon public schools. Guns on campuses pose an elevated and unacceptable risk to students and staff at all educational levels.

UPDATE (10/14/11):  An article from Lane Community College's newspaper, The Torch, with a comparable argument:

UPDATE (11/8/11):  The Oregon University system chooses not to appeal the ruling for now:


1. Miller, Matthew, David Hemenway, and Henry Wechsler, “Guns and Gun Threats at College,” Journal of American College Health 51(57) (September 2002):62–64; Miller, et al., “Guns at College,” Journal of American College Health 48(7) (1999).
2. Cintron, Miriam, “College Campuses Grapple with Escalating Suicide Rates,” (on file with Brady Center).
3. Lewiecki, E. Michael and Miller, Sara A., “Time to Reconsider,” Journal of the American Medical Association 305 (11) (March 16, 2011).
4. Owens D, Horrocks J, and House A. “Fatal and non-fatal repetition of self-harm: systematic review,” British Journal of Psychiatry 2002; 181:193–199, at
5. Miller, Matthew, et al., “Household Firearm Ownership and Rates of Suicide Across the 50 United States,” Journal of Trauma (April 2007):1029.
6. Morrison, Gregory B., “Deadly Force Programs Among Larger U.S. Police Departments,” Police Quarterly 9 (2006):331–332.
7. Thompson, Amy, James H. Price, Adam Mrdjenovich, Jagdish Khubchandani, “Reducing Firearm-Related Violence on College Campuses—Police Chiefs’ Perceptions and Practices,” Journal of American College Health 58(3) 2009:247–254.

Ceasefire Oregon works to reduce gun violence. For more information, please visit our website,, or contact us at 503.220.1669 or


  1. What do you base your belief in gun control on? Is your belief falsifiable? In other words, what new evidence would change your mind? I'm not talking about evidence that currently exists, rather would it be possible to change your mind via evidence?

    If after several years of allowing guns on campus, campus violence and suicide went down would that be sufficient?

  2. Your entire screed against the ban on campus carry being overturned focuses on saying how dangerous you think it is for college students (and presumably anyone that age) to possess firearms and how they just can't be trusted with them ... but college-age people—student or not—CAN own guns, and reinstating the ban will not affect that one bit. What you need to demonstrate is that allowing them ON CAMPUS is inherently worse or more dangerous.

    See, cause the thing is, in order to get a concealed carry permit in Oregon, you must be 21 or older, not a convicted felon, not convicted or found guilty of a misdemeanor, have no outstanding warrants for your arrest, and must demonstrate competence with a handgun. College students can already carry guns if they want to, assuming they meet those requirements. If the state already trusts such a person to carry a weapon everywhere else, I don't see why you think they are suddenly transformed into bloodthirsty murderers or super depressed suicides waiting to happen when they set foot on campus. As usual, much ado about nothing.

    Here is what I predict is going to happen: Nothing.

    The ban won't be reinstated. Some students with carry permits might bring their weapons concealed onto campus. Nobody will know about it. There will not be a sudden surge in gun murders or suicides on campus.

    Of course, for some bizarre reason, when your predictions do not come true, that will not change your stance on the issue—you'll still insist that allowing guns on campus is dangerous, like the Iraq war supporters who still to this day insist that we had to invade because Saddam had WMD.

  3. The statistics at colleges which allow concealed carry do not support your theories, nor does "feeling safe" equate to "being safe". I for one am not interested in the politics of fear, whether from Bush after 9/11 or Ceasefire OR. You should read the Harpers article "Happiness is a Worn Gun" (PDF is online) for a sober take on concealed carry from someone with liberal leanings (which I share btw). If this issue is SO very important to you you should get a permit, whatever training you need, and wear a pistol for a few weeks (like the author mentioned above did). Do you think you will be inclined to shoot people you disagree with, go looking for trouble, threaten people with your gun? Of course you won't, and neither would any self respecting person . . . which is precisely why I seldom hear of any incidents involving any of the ~20k permit holders in my county.

    Your College-related comments are inflammatory and untrue. As Guav states above, you have to be 21 to have a permit, so the notion that freshman at their first kegger will be drunk, packing and exploring their newfound freedom is extremely misleading at best. You do your argument a great disservice by ignoring the basic requirements to have a permit and choosing to ignore real statistics born from actual student bodies/campuses where permit holders can and do carry.

    You also ignore the simple fact that on a campus with guns banned where armed security/police are present help will be minutes away when seconds count, and then on a campus where even security is unarmed, bans like you propose would set the stage for the kind of agonizingly slow police response we have seen again and again at tragic school shootings.

    If what you really want in your heart of hearts is a world where gun violence (and perhaps guns) no longer exist . . . well that is a patently utopian idea that is at some odds with history, reality, and the Constitution. I am offended when people choose which rights are inconvenient or unimportant to them. Guantanamo, Warrantless Wiretaps, Extrajudicial Killings, individual issues may have political affiliation, but the problem of people playing fast and loose with rights crosses all party lines. Your quest seems of the same stripe. If you really want to ban guns, you need to work towards the kind of public consensus needed for a Constitutional amendment. Anything else is unacceptable and dishonest.

  4. One point that doesn't often come up is that some of us professors have concealed carry licenses. We certainly aren't irresponsible children.

  5. Oregon colleges don't have the authority to ban guns.