Carl Krueger, project coordinator, Policy Analysis & Research, WICHE
Nov 4, 2015 11:26:19 AM

With the most recent mass school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, on October 1, 2015, the debate over whether or not to allow gums on college campuses has once again been pushed to the forefront of the policy agenda in several states. Always a contentious issue, the topic of guns on campus elicits emotional responses from people on both sides of the political debate, and state legislatures are no different. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are currently eight states that have enacted either through legislation or court order provisions allowing firearms on college campuses. The most recent state to pass legislation permitting concealed weapons on campus is Texas, which passed SB 11 during the 2015 session and is set to take effect during the fall semester of 2016. Conversely, SB 707, which passed in California in 2015, deletes an exemption from the existing Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995 that allowed a person holding a valid concealed carry license to possess a firearm on the campus of a university or college. 

Other states that already had laws on the books allowing guns on campus include Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin. In the case of Utah, legislation that passed in 2014 makes it the only state to specify by statute that colleges and universities are institutions that do not have the authority to ban or restrict firearms. Most states leave the decision whether or not to allow guns on campus up to the individual institution.

During the 2015 legislative session, numerous states proposed but failed to pass laws permitting or restricting guns on campus, including:

         Montana: SB 143, which was narrowly defeated, would have allowed individuals with permits to carry weapons on the state's public college campuses.

         Nevada: AB 148, which would have allowed for the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses, was approved by the House, but it died in the Senate.

         Wyoming: HB 114 would have done away with gun-free zones around both K-12 schools as well as colleges and universities, and allowed those with state-recognized concealed-carry permits to bring their handgun with them while visiting or attending school events or classes.

Additionally, two states proposed legislation in 2015 allowing firearms on campus that will be considered during their 2016 legislative sessions:

         Florida: SB 68, which is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would allow individual who have concealed carry licensees to openly carry firearms on a college or university campus.

Michigan: SB 442, which has already passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, allows the possession of concealed handguns in all "concealed carry free zones," including colleges and universities.

According information compiled by ABC News, there have been 15 instances of gun violence at a college or university as of October 1, 2015. Like the others that preceded it, the shooting in Oregon led to arguments for either allowing or restricting firearms on college campuses, with both sides citing safety concerns. With all of the increased attention, the issue of guns on campus will most likely continue to figure prominently during the 2016 legislative sessions in the states.