Carrying on campus
An examination of the concealed weapons policies on USU’s campus
Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 12:02
In a time where public shootings are frequent and the inappropriate use of firearms is becoming a topic of everyday conversation, the use of concealed weapons can affect many on campus.
“You need a permit to carry on campus — concealed or open carry, either one,” said Sgt. Joseph Huish of the USU police department. “The national history of firearms on campuses in recent years makes it so people are pretty anxious whenever a gun appears.”
Huish said many carry firearms out of self-defense, but carrying a firearm in order to aid in emergency situations can put them at risk.
“A lot of people carry a firearm so they can be of use to fellow citizens or even the police if something goes down or if there’s an active shooter on campus. The problem with that is when police arrive on the scene, all they see is a guy with a gun,” he said. “It becomes a dangerous environment for anybody with a gun when police arrive and they don’t know who’s who. They try to be a help to the situation and they put themselves at risk.”
Mark Warren, a senior majoring in law and constitutional studies, has been a concealed weapons permit holder for more than a year and six months and said he he carries a concealed weapon every day he is on campus.
“Virginia Tech is a major reason behind why I carry on campus, because of that shooting and because I think that campus is a likely place for a shooting to occur, although I hope it doesn’t,” he said. “I think that universities create a high-stress environment which can lead to a bad situation, so I just do it for my personal safety.”
Huish said despite the risk, concealed weapons permit holders have been of help in gunman situations.
“People with concealed weapons permits have, not on this campus but in places in the country, been a help to an active gunman kind of thing,” he said. “They’ve protected lives and property.”
Huish said USU hasn’t had many issues with students carrying firearms on campus but advised them to keep them well concealed.
“Typically the issues aren’t concealing it properly,” he said. “Our advice to people who have permits and do carry on campus is that they keep it well concealed so it doesn’t disrupt what’s going on on campus.”
“There was one time where I was wearing a shirt that didn’t fit so well and it pulled out a little bit and a girl did respond badly toward that,” Warren said. “She did not like the fact that I had a gun on campus. I got a lecture from her, but other than that I’ve always had it completely concealed. Whether it’s in my bag or on my person, it’s always concealed.”
Huish said the need isn’t great in most cases to carry a concealed weapon, but there are cases in which it could be justified.
“There could have someone that’s harassing them,” he said. “Sometimes they are carrying large amounts of money with a job they may have and feel they need to. I think the average student probably doesn’t have a great need, but that’s not something that’s determined by the police department. I’m sure there are some that feel their need is pretty legitimate.”
Dex Taylor, a firearm instructor with the Department of Public Safety, travels around Utah teaching classes to anyone who is interested in holding a concealed firearms permit. He compared the same advantages to carrying a concealed weapon to that of police officers.
“Even though they use it primarily to enforce the law, the real reason is to be able to have self protection either for themselves or for somebody else,” he said.
When asked who should consider getting a permit, Taylor said, “Anybody who’s going to use a firearm, whether it’s for hunting, whether it’s for self-protection, even if you think you’re just going to be around firearms, it would be a good idea.”
Taylor said many college-aged people may be intimidated by the prospect of taking his class.
“I think that many times especially young people or often times women are intimidated by a class because they have never fired a gun before,” he said. “They feel like they need to go ahead and learn how before they come in and take this class, which is not true.”
Taylor said many who have taken his class benefitted from doing so.
“I’ve had a lot of feedback from people who have either protected themselves or their families’ lives by using a firearm,” he said.
Some students choose to get permits in order to provide safety and protection for themselves and their families. “I’ll be carrying frequently. That’s what I got the permit for,” said Brandon Mullen, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering. “Obviously there are times that I shouldn’t be and there are places that I shouldn’t have a gun. The federal law doesn’t even allow people with a concealed weapons permit to carry in a school zone, but Utah law allows it. On campus I may not carry as much because I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, because when someone has a gun on them you can tell unless they have a big coat or very loose clothing.”