Though studies show a large majority of college students and faculty oppose laws that allow people to carry guns on campus, lawmakers keep introducing laws to do just that.
New UNR research says state lawmakers — usually conservatives — push for these laws even when there have been no on-campus shootings.
Nevada lawmakers have tried to pass campus carry laws at least three times.
David R. Johnson is lead author of the study and an assistant professor at UNR. He and his colleagues analyzed more than a decade’s worth of data about shootings and so-called campus carry legislation on a state-by-state level.
“The connection we found was not that the legislators were responding to incidents specifically happening on college campuses or even in the K-12 system, for that matter, but it was anywhere within the state in the year proceeding the bill being introduced,” Johnson said.
Currently, 11 states have laws that allow concealed weapons on campus. Sixteen states ban concealed weapons and 23 leave the decision up to individual universities or systems of higher education.
Two of the three times campus carry laws were introduced in Nevada Democrats were in charge of the Assembly and the Senate. Johnson said one reason Republican lawmakers introduce legislation that is unlikely to actually get passed is symbolism.
“It doesn’t matter whether or not a bill that you introduce is actually going to be enacted successfully," he said, "Simply the act of introducing a piece of legislation is a way of signaling to your constituents that their values matter."
Johnson said lawmakers - Democrats or Republicans - like to show their base that they're working on their priorities whether the system will allow the bill to pass or not.
Another reason these bills get traction is they don't cost a state anything; however, Johnson said they're not free for systems of higher education. It can cost colleges and universities money for signs, weapons lockers and extra security.
Campus carry laws cost extra money but they don't necessarily make a campus safer, Johnson said. He said there have been only two studies into safety on campus and neither of them "provides very convincing evidence that these policies have any impact on crime," he said.
Johnson said laws that allow concealed weapons on campus need research because of the cost for campuses, the lack of evidence they improve safety and it's not clear that the major stakeholders actually want them.
“Universities are becoming a new battleground in proxy wars over political matters that are, at best, indirectly connected to the things that faculty and campus administration and students are concerned about with respect to access of college students, retention of college students, the production of knowledge and serving the communities that surround campuses within states.”
David R. Johnson, lead author and assistant professor, UNR
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