Mason students divided on national gun control debate

The Virginia Senate rejected a package of gun regulation measures proposed by Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Jan. 26 amid concealed carry debates on college campuses throughout the country.

The bills proposed by McAuliffe would have renewed Virginia’s one-a-month handgun limit, required background checks for buyers at gun shows, banned anyone convicted of a misdemeanor related to domestic violence from owning a gun and revoke concealed handgun permits from parents behind on child support.

A Florida House committee also recently voted to back a bill that would allow guns on campus nearly two months after a shooting at Florida State University. Mason does not allow any weapons on campus except those used by law enforcement officials. This policy is shared by most other universities in Virginia, though some, such as the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech, have exceptions for university-approved events and classes.

“With a campus such as this one, where so many of our classes are politically charged, things can get so heated,” said Emily Lane, a sophomore biology major. “If you have something so easily accessible to harm someone, it’s just a dangerous situation.”

Virginia currently prohibits individuals from carrying concealed weapons in public without a proper permit. Open carry is legal, except when restricted by statute.

Junior and history major Dennis Garcia thinks that gun control policies depend on whether there is enough trust for the public to be armed responsibly.

“Those who wish to use firearms aggressively can always find guns on the black market,” Garcia said. “So you want as many people as possible to defend themselves, especially in large, public spaces where there’s not necessarily the ability for the police to respond immediately.”

Some think allowing students or faculty members to carry guns on campus would provide needed protection in case of an emergency.

“If you’ve gone through training, if you have your permit and if the state recognizes that you have the proper qualifications, I’m all for students being able to carry side-arms,” said James Anderson, a sophomore majoring in economics. “In the event that there was a situation where someone walked into [the JC] and had an assault weapon, if five percent of the people had some kind of side-arm, that’s enough to prevent a mass shooting.”

Debates over gun control were reignited in 2012 when Adam Lanza opened fire on Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 students and six staff members. According to anti-gun advocacy group Every Town for Gun Safety, there were at least 94 shootings on school and college campuses from Dec. 15, 2012, the day of the Sandy Hook attack, to Dec. 9, 2014. People in favor of allowing guns on campus acknowledge that it would be controversial and many are wary of assault weapons.

“Obviously, someone open-carrying on a college campus is going to garner a significant amount of attention,” Garcia said. “I’m not necessarily saying that’s the responsible thing to do, but I’m not at all convinced that it should be prohibited.”

Others, like Lane, think that the focus should not be on the guns but on the people with them.

“I did go to a shooting range once, and the first thing I thought when I walked in was that there are three men here that all have guns and they could turn any second and just shoot me,” Lane said. “It’s just too much power for one person to hold.”

Photo credit: Miller_Center. No changes made.

The original version of this story listed James Anderson as Peter Anderson. The correction is reflected in this version.

An earlier version of this story claimed that Virginia strictly prohibits concealed carry of a firearm. Those in Virginia may carry a firearm with the proper permit. Open carry is legal, but may be restricted by statute