The nation watched closely as the people of Tucson, Ariz., suffered through a shooting that not only ended in six people killed and 12 wounded, but with a debate about gun rights that can be felt on the ISU campus.

Last semester, a new student organization, Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, was started by Anthony Taylor, junior in software engineering, as a way to change the ISU policy on weapons. ISU policy  reads, "Weapons are not permitted on the campus except for purposes of law enforcement and as specifically authorized for purposes of instruction, research or service."

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus is a national organization that began shortly after the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 and is now found on many campuses across the United States. The group is a "national, non-partisan, grass-roots organization composed of more than 43,000 college students, professors, college employees, parents of college students and concerned citizens," according to its website.

After approaching Eric Cooper, associate professor of psychology, about advising Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, Taylor began the process of approval and recruitment. With only seven members, a constitution yet to be approved and no set meetings, the club has a long road ahead of it, but that doesn't keep members from setting goals.

"All we're talking about is changing the fact that people who are allowed to defend themselves anywhere else in the state are allowed to do so when going to class," Taylor said. "It's really more about the precaution."

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus has two key goals, according to the organization's national website. The first is to work with state legislators and school administrators to allow college students the right to carry concealed on campus. The second is to educate the public in order to dispel the everyday myths and misconceptions traditionally associated with concealed carry on campus.

"What I've found is the majority of people just haven't made a decision on the issue because they don't know enough about it," Taylor said. "So educating the public would be the best thing."

Group members participate in one annual event April 4. Students nationwide wear an empty holster to class to further raise awareness on what they are trying to achieve.

The arrival of a group advocating these changes to campus life has created a cause for concern for several members of the ISU community.

"I think that if people started carrying concealed weapons on campus, the atmosphere of campus will change to one where people are fearful and suspicious of other people," said Stephanie Madon, associate professor of psychology. "I think the potential for harm is much greater than any benefit we could ever possibly hope to get out of students carrying concealed weapons on campus."

Many researchers have studied violence or violent behaviors and have found theories that could be applied to concealed carry on campus.

"In social psychology, there's this very robust effect called the weapons effect, which is a tendency for people to behave aggressively when they are in the presence of a weapon," Madon said. "Based on the evidence I'm familiar with, I do not think that having more guns on campus, being carried by students, is going to reduce violence."

However, some say the exact opposite.

"Of all the campuses that do allow campus carry, there hasn't been a single incident where there's been an act of violence involving guns," Taylor said. "People who have bad intentions are going to do it anyway. A rule doesn't stop them. All it does is disarm the people who have no intention of breaking the law."

Whether students agree with the goals set by Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, the group must first go through the proper channels to discuss the possible changes. This means talking to school administrators who might think that these changes are unnecessary and possibly dangerous.

"It could potentially get out of hand, and I think we really need to leave it to the trained law enforcement officials to deal with that," said Thomas Hill, vice president for Division of Student Affairs.

"I think we have a tremendous response time and I think the campus is a safe campus," he said. "There's a reason we send law enforcement officers to the academy. They are trained in more than just weapon safety and operation. When you deal with criminal behavior, there are just so many other things involved in that."

New legislation in both the Iowa Senate and the Iowa House has added fuel to the fire while also creating some confusion.

Senate File 2379 went into effect Jan. 1 and changed the current law by making the ability to obtain a permit more uniform throughout the entire state. Sheriffs are no longer allowed as much discretion as before, but instead must assess an applicant according to a preset list of conditions. This also allows for administrative and judicial review for any permit denials or suspensions.

"Parts of that legislation may raise the question of whether current university restrictions on the carrying and possession of firearms are still valid, and the university's position is 'yes,'" said Jerry Stewart, director of ISU Public Safety. "Those are still valid and they still prohibit the possession or use of weapons, including firearms, pursuant to Iowa Administrative Code and University policy."

"The enactment of this law provides an excellent opportunity to communicate to our community members what regulations are in place so that through education, faculty, staff, students or visitors won't unknowingly violate the law or policies," Stewart said.

(12) comments

Steve Hensyel

Q: What do all of the following locations have in common:

Westroads Mall in Omaha, Virginia Tech Campus, Millard South High School in Omaha, Columbine High School, Heath High School in West Paducah KY, James W. Parker Middle School in Edinboro PA?

A: All were gun-free zones where mass shootings (2 or more victims) were carried out.

Eric Mootz

Great article, but putting guns into the hands of young adults is not a good idea. Personally, I would feel very uncomfortable seeing guns within a few of my classmates grasp, especially if that classmate didn't like me. It would make learning quite difficult.

Also, I don't need to tell you that students at Iowa State party. They get pretty drunk, and mixing guns with bad judgment...

If everyone would get along we wouldn't need to protect ourselves from each other.

Robert Fowler

The only students that would be carrying are 21 or older, have passed a FBI background check and passed the necessary training. People that have jumper through all of these hoops aren't going to act in a way to jeopardize their permit.

Eric, everyone doesn't get along. There are those out there that would do you harm for the few dollars in your pocket. Or the watch on your wrist. If you feel you don't need to defend yourself, that is your right. I've been on the wrong end one time and I swore it wouldn't happen again.

Steve is absolutely correct. Every mass shooting happens on gun free zones. They should just post signs that says "get your victims here". It's the same effect.

Heather Johnson

Steve, those shootings have another thing in common. In all but one case you listed, the shooters committed suicide. If they were suicidal, concealed carry wouldn't likely deter them from opening fire. If a student/victim were lucky, someone in the vicinity would have a gun and kill the shooter, perhaps shortening the attack. Perhaps.

And why should anyone feel safer with concealed carry? Supporters say I shouldn't worry because there are background and mental health checks. However, I am constantly reminded by gun enthusiasts that criminals will get the guns illegally anyway. Doesn't that suggest that the only thing concealed carry might do is mask illegal carry, as sighting a gun on campus would no longer be an indicator of illegal activity?

I'm no expert on gun control, but as it stands, I feel a lot safer without guns on campus.

Leigh Rich

[rolleyes]Most students can not hold a Concealed licence. Campus rules do not allow it also even if you are over 21 and take training and have a FEDERAL back ground check.
Most likely carrier of a gun would be a criminal who doesnt care about gun free zones or laws. or rules.

James Sampica

"Q: What do all of the following locations have in common:

Westroads Mall in Omaha, Virginia Tech Campus, Millard South High School in Omaha, Columbine High School, Heath High School in West Paducah KY, James W. Parker Middle School in Edinboro PA?

A: All were gun-free zones where mass shootings (2 or more victims) were carried out.
Another thing these locations had in common? The guns were acquired from legal owners or purchased legally.

David Jackson

"Acquired" from legal owners isn't always legal. And none of any recent mass shooters, or any that I'm aware of, were concealed carry holders.

How many times has one of these shootings been prevented because someone spotted the gun before the attack. Allowing people already licensed to carry a weapon in public to carry on campus is not going to impede identification of a perpetrator of violence.

People need to feel safe about what actually makes them safer, not sticking their heads in the ground and pretending if they see nothing they must be good. People who are concerned about drinking and carrying weapons need to realize that the only thing this would change is the ability to carry a weapon on campus. If they can own a gun already they can have one in their off campus home already, with or without booze. The only thing concealed carry on campus would do is eliminate the imaginary line between campus ground and the rest of the public which surrounds it.

Rob Stone

"Steve is absolutely correct. Every mass shooting happens on gun free zones."--Robert Fowler

No they don't. The mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona was in a guns-are-okay-to-carry zone. In fact, one armed person came very close to shooting the guy who took Jared Loughner's gun away from him.

"Sir, when I came through the door, I had my hand on the butt of my pistol and I clicked the safety off. I was ready to kill him. But I didn't have to do that and I was very blessed that I didn't have to go to that place," [Joe] Zamudio replied. "I would have shot the man holding the gun," he added.

Also, a 2004 study by the National Research Council in the National Academies found that states with right-to-carry laws had no reduction in crime. "Research has found, for example, that higher rates of household firearms ownership are associated with higher rates of gun suicide, that illegal diversions from legitimate commerce are important sources of crime guns and guns used in suicide, that firearms are used defensively many times per day, and that some types of targeted police interventions may effectively lower gun crime and violence."

A recent study from Stanford Law School found that aggravated assault rises when right-to-carry laws are adopted.

James Sampica

""Acquired" from legal owners isn't always legal"

That's irrelevant to my point though, the point is that arming citizens is contributing to arming criminals, since in all of those shootings, the guns were acquired from legal owners or purchased legally.

David Jackson

Most mass shootings do occur in gun-free zones, with the rare exception.

James, would it be at all relevant to your point that allowing non-criminal people to buy cars helps fuel car theft as the thieves will steel them from the legal owners?

James Sampica

Yes David, you're right.

The availability of something makes it easier for someone to acquire it, that's why we have to be careful what we make available and what we restrict.

Is it easy to steal a car and drive around with it? Hardly. Is it easy to swipe a handgun and keep it tucked away in a pocket or bag? Totally.

David Jackson


First you cannot blame legal ownership with the illegal use of anything. Second, what does this have to do with concealed carry?

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