Parkland instructors share thoughts on concealed carry

Matt Moss

Editor

Debate over concealed carry on college campuses has sprung up nationwide, and some Parkland instructors have shared their thoughts on the subject.

Photo by Scott Wells | The Prospectus  Concealed carry became law in Illinois on July 9, 2013.  In 2012, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the state's ban on concealed weapons was unconstitutional.

Photo by Scott Wells | The Prospectus
Concealed carry became law in Illinois on July 9, 2013. In 2012, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the state’s ban on concealed weapons was unconstitutional.

Concealed carry refers to the right of a licensed citizen to carry a weapon such as a legal non-utility knife or firearm, so long as it is not visible to others unless it is deliberately drawn in a situation the law deems permissible, which is most always self-defense or defense of persons under duress.

The crux of the debate ultimately stems from the fear of mass-shootings on college campuses, with both sides holding that their stance is the best means to improve campus safety.

It’s a divisive issue. Supporters say the prospect of armed students and faculty could deter a potential shooter from following through with his or her crime. Opponents say weapons held by non-law enforcement on campus would not promote the safe, learning environment colleges are supposed to endorse and bring about a spate of weapon-related injuries, ultimately the opposite of what concealed carry on campuses would hope to prevent.

Social sciences instructor Lisa Baer, despite being from a gun-owning family, is not a supporter of concealed carry in general, and is weary of the idea of armed students. She believes the uncertainty of guns in her classroom would weigh on her teaching psyche and therefore hurt the learning environment.

“I think it would always be in the back of my mind,” Baer said.

Baer also says the concern of carriers not having been adequately trained in their weapon is a major factor in her stance on the matter overall, not just on college campuses.

“That’s what scares me…it’s the fact that somebody could carry a gun and not know how to handle it,” she said.

Baer also postulates an armed student and faculty body would do little to dissuade mass-shooters, since they often turn their weapons on themselves regardless.

Julie Angel, a Parkland geology instructor, also hails from a family which values guns and their safe usage, but echoes Baer’s thoughts. She is concerned concealed carry at Parkland could result in a spate of unintended, spur-of-the-moment shootings, causing more problems than it would solve.

“I think about people who may be a little more hot-headed,” Angel said. “It’s our job as all instructors at Parkland to keep a positive learning environment…and part of that job is that we approach people who are disruptive…For me, it would be hard to decide how to approach people if I thought there were some people who were packing heat.”

She also agrees with Baer in that mass-shooters likely would not be deterred by armed students and faculty, holding mass-shooters have forsaken their safety when committing to their assaults.

Both Baer and Angel believe colleges should be able to make the call themselves over being mandated to allow concealed carry. That said, neither is up in arms about Illinois’ current concealed carry prohibition.

Staff writer for Parkland’s public relations office and communications instructor Ruthie Counter supports concealed carry on the grounds of it being a constitutional right to bear arms, but does not believe it necessary at Parkland due to the college’s 24/7 police.

“I don’t necessarily see the need for it in an environment where there’s already a police force in place,” Counter said. “So it me makes question or wonder, then, why someone might feel the need to have a gun on their person…We already have that protection.”

Like Baer and Angel, she says the threat of getting shot would not instill fear in someone who has made the decision to shoot up a school.

Counter does not think permitting concealed carry would affect the classroom environment. She says someone could be carrying illegally anyway and the situation would be the same: she and the class would not know unless the carrier announced they were carrying.

Although she does not foresee any change on the matter within the near future, she is fine with the status quo and would also be fine if the state mandates colleges to allow concealed carry or gives them autonomy on the matter. She says the people and their representatives make these public policy decisions, and if the majority decides on a certain path, as a public educator she will respect their wishes.

“I don’t know that I would be upset if the state should say, ‘Parkland, you must allow concealed carry now,’ because the state is made up of the people, in a broad sense,” Counter said. “It is the elected officials…that say this is a good thing. So, our public offices—or our state-run institutions—should go this way as well.”

Nathan Stewart, also a communications instructor, says the main reason he is against concealed carry on college campuses is how it would detract from the educational environment.

“What it does to the educational environment is not worth [it],” Stewart said. “Whether you look at it as right, as a deterrent, as whatever—it’s not worth it.”

He says instructors are already encouraged to avoid potentially controversial topics—topics which could anger somebody—because of the risk of shootings, so he holds that concealed carry in classrooms would push instructors further away from controversial topics, which may need to be addressed in the capacity of a course; indeed, discussing ideas from differing viewpoints is also a part of Parkland’s general education objectives.

In this, Stewart echoes Angel regarding spur-of-the-moment shootings.

Every state has legal concealed carry in some form or another, with the parameters of concealed carry laws varying state to state.

However, 19 states have statutes prohibiting concealed carry on public college campuses. Illinois is one of these states, hence Parkland’s no-concealed-carry policy.

Twenty-three states including Illinois neighbors Indiana, Iowa, and Kentucky leave the decision up to individual institutions. Utah and—come this August—Texas will hold the distinction of being the only two states that require colleges to permit concealed carry, bar none.

Ultimately, Parkland cannot make the decision itself to permit or prohibit concealed carry on its grounds, as it is decided by the state government.

To elicit change on this matter, it would be up to Illinois voters and the representatives they elect. For now, Parkland and all other public educational institutions in the state remain concealed carry-free zones, but voters may soon voice to change—or maintain—this reality.