Updated: Oct. 19, 2017 at 12:00 p.m.
In a move that will endanger residents of D.C. and make students less safe on campus, District officials decided this month to not appeal a court order that blocked legislation intended to decrease concealed carry weapons. The law, proposed in 2014, was meant to decrease the number of concealed carry permits by requiring those who are applying to have a “good reason” to need the permit. The “good reason” to ask for a permit could not include living or working in dangerous areas, leading opponents of the law to unfairly call it a total gun ban. Since the law was implemented in December 2014, only 23 percent of those applying for concealed carry permits were approved.
The number of concealed carry weapons in the District will likely increase by striking down this law, putting students who live off campus at a higher risk of gun violence and making it more probable that residents will circumvent University policies by bringing guns on campus. Not fighting for a law that protects D.C. residents, students and others is wrong. The University must take action in response to this ruling by putting up signs and other reminders of GW’s gun policy to ensure that campus remains free of firearms and students stay safe.
There will be an increase of concealed carry permits throughout D.C. now that the law has been struck down. The bill has prevented hundreds of permits from being approved since its inception. When the law was in place, only about 120 people had concealed carry permits in the District. This number is sure to increase without the law in effect now. This makes University action all the more vital.
In a statement released immediately after the decision, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said public safety is his “paramount concern” and “the District’s ‘good reason’ requirement is a common-sense, and constitutional, gun regulation.” Clearly, Racine is concerned about the law being struck down. Although there are other gun control measures in place, the “good reason” requirement upheld public safety, which is his greatest concern. If the D.C. Attorney General is concerned about a matter that impacts public safety, then the community should be equally worried.
It is clear D.C. officials are upset by the decision, and for good reason. The only rationale for why the city decided not to pursue the case in the Supreme Court was due to fear that it may lead to a precedent that could overturn similar state gun laws nationwide. That would include the neighboring state of Maryland, or nearby states such as New Jersey and New York, which have laws requiring “good” or “substantial” reasons to carry concealed guns. The more gun laws put at risk by a Supreme Court decision, the greater the risk to D.C. residents. Still, the damage is done in D.C. At GW, we must take action to prevent the potential influx of weapons from impacting the student body.
Scattered throughout campus next to buildings, benches and busts of George Washington are signs that read “smoke-free campus.” But much less publicized is GW’s gun policy, which can be found on the school website in the policies section. Although D.C. law explicitly bans pistols on college campuses, the University should still publicize their policy. Someone bringing a gun to campus would have to actively go looking for the policy, which states that, “All members of the University community, as well as visitors, are prohibited from possessing firearms, explosives or weapons (hereafter referred to as weapons) on the premises of the University.”
The University must make this policy clear to all students, faculty and visitors. Gun violence has become a topic of discussion after a rise of such violence across the country, including on college campuses. After the mass shooting in Las Vegas, student organizations called for gun control reform. But action can start right on campus. Signs must be posted throughout campus making people aware of the University’s gun policy. Someone carrying a concealed carry weapon may never realize it is banned from GW’s campus without explicit signage informing them. Simply bringing the weapon to campus may seem innocent, but it could cause more harm than good when an act of self-defense, vigilantism or anger causes tragedy. The more guns on campus, the greater the risk to students. Simply reminding people to leave their guns at home when they come to GW could save someone’s life.
GW’s actions shouldn’t stop at putting up signs. The University is responsible for protecting students off and on campus so it is their responsibility to educate the student body on the dangers of firearms. Students must be made aware of the University’s gun policy and should be aware of the greater risk of gun violence due to this law. It is important that University newsletters include information on this legal change, on University safety policies regarding weapons and a reaffirmation of the University’s stance against weapons on campus. In addition to newsletters, GW should take advantage of social media to inform students and outsiders of the University’s gun policy.
The University should implement these policies not only because they will decrease the chance of students, faculty and guests being involved in gun violence, but also to reassure students that GW cares about their safety, wherever they are.
Kiran Hoeffner-Shah, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that guns are not explicitly banned on college campuses. Pistols are banned on private and public universities in D.C. We regret this error.