Activists Call For A Federal Ban On Campus Carry

Cheryl Gerber/AP Images for Allstate

Democrats can’t pass a universal background measure out of the Senate at the moment, so I’m not sure why the folks at the Center for American Progress seem to believe that federal legislation banning the lawful carrying of firearms on college campuses has any chance at all of getting a vote, much less getting to Joe Biden’s desk. Despite that political reality and the constitutional issues with such a ban, the far-Left group is indeed pushing for a legislative ban on the practice, which it says is “putting the safety of students and employees at risk.”

For evidence, CAP points to a pair of incidents where college professors who were lawfully carrying negligently discharged their firearm. Never mind that the only two examples they cite took place seven years apart on two different college campuses, which undercuts their claim that campus carry laws are inherently dangerous. As long as the anti-gun group can point to even a single incident, that’s enough to declare that a ban should be imposed, either explicitly or through various legislative machinations.

To prevent shootings on college campuses, Congress should ban carrying guns at higher education institutions, like it already does on K-12 school grounds, with similar exceptions such as for law enforcement and military programs. Or, to at least ensure that college students and employees have clear information about state laws, campus policies, and campus crime statistics related to gun violence, Congress should update the Clery Act with new reporting requirements. In addition, the U.S. Education Department can support institutions by studying campus gun crimes and offering guidance on safety strategies.

To bolster their argument, the CAP activists start with the dubious claim that the federal government has the authority to ban firearms on state-funded or private colleges or universities.

Congress has the authority to supersede state laws and ban guns from college campuses. In fact, federal law already mostly prohibits carrying guns on the grounds of K-12 schools. The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 bans guns on public or private K-12 school property, except when carried by law enforcement officers or by someone during an approved school program. However, people with licenses to carry can also bring firearms on school grounds, if state laws do not prohibit them—a dangerous loophole that makes schools less safe. Congress should extend the federal gun-free zones to include higher education institutions while also closing the loophole. This change in federal law would set the floor for campus safety standards that states can build on to implement even stronger protections.

In other words, despite CAP’s claims, the “Gun-Free School Zones Act” didn’t actually ban guns from K-12 schools. Not only that, the Center for American Progress conveniently neglects to mention the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court declared the 1990 federal law to be an unconstitutional violation of the Commerce Clause, in a case called U.S. v. Lopez

Of course, if CAP acknowledged that decision, the group would also have to admit that what it’s calling for is just as unconstitutional. Instead, the organization ignores what the Supreme Court has had to say on the subject, but declares that even if Congress doesn’t or won’t impose a ban, there are still steps that the federal government could take to warn students and staff away from those campuses that don’t prohibit the lawful carrying of firearms.

Three new policy disclosure requirements should be added to the annual security report that all institutions publish on their websites each year. Currently, it is too difficult for consumers—such as a prospective college student—to research a state’s campus carry laws and institutional policies to understand if, when, and where a gun can be carried or stored and by whom. Institutions should be required to publish the relevant parts of their state’s campus carry laws, if applicable, as well as their campus weapons policies to clearly identify this information, which some institutions already do.

Frankly, if doing the five minutes worth of research to discover the campus carry policies of a particular college or university is too difficult for prospective students, they probably shouldn’t be enrolled in college to begin with.

I’m honestly having a tough time figuring out why the Center for American Progress is trying to make an issue out of campus carry right now. The only current lawsuit that I’m aware of is in Montana, but that’s still in the early stages and the suit by the Board of Regents for Montana’s university system is alleging that the state legislature doesn’t have the authority to impose any rules or regulations on college campuses, rather than arguing specifically that the campus carry statute is unconstitutional.

For a minute, I considered the possibility that the Center for American Progress was just letting a couple of summer interns write up a policy position, but that’s not it either. The CAP is using two “senior policy analysts” to target campus carry laws, not college students working for free for the CAP over the summer break.

I have no clue what prompted the CAP to take aim at state-level campus carry laws, but they need a reality check. The Constitution doesn’t allow them to engage in the type of gun ban they’re demanding, and there aren’t enough votes on Capitol Hill for their proposal even if there were no constitutional considerations.

As for the reporting requirements, maybe the folks at CAP truly think college students are too dumb to do basic research, or it could be that they’re just upset over the fact that, despite the claims by gun control activists that campus carry laws would cause prospective students to flee, enrollment is up on many campuses where the law allows for students and staff to lawfully carry in self-defense.

Regardless of the reasons, I don’t think this latest anti-gun control proposal is going anywhere. The push to ban campus carry is a solution in search of a problem, and as a parent of two students who’ll soon be old enough to go to college, I have to say I’m far more concerned about what they might be taught than what their classmates or professors might be carrying.