A bill filed Thursday would let lawful gun owners with concealed-carry permits carry handguns on University of North Carolina system and community college campuses in North Carolina.
Republican Rep. Kyle Hall, a 2012 UNC-Chapel Hill graduate and co-sponsor of House Bill 251, said allowing trained gun owners to carry their firearms would make college campuses safer, the News & Observer reports.
“This is just another safeguard to make sure our campuses are safe,” said Hall. “Our students and faculty should feel safe when they go on campus.”
However, opponents such as Becky Ceartas, executive director of North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, said the bill was “very dangerous” and that law enforcement officers should be the only ones to carry guns on campus.
“Campuses need to be a place for learning,” Ceartas said. “Not a place where students have to fear being shot.”
Hall argued that lawful gun owners who have already gone through the permit process — which includes attending firearm safety training classes and paying a fee — should be able to carry on campus in order to protect themselves and others.
Citing the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, Hall said, “It’s our job as lawmakers to be proactive rather than reactive waiting for an incident like Virginia Tech to happen.”
UNC officials remain wary of the legislation. Brent Herron, the UNC system’s associate vice president of campus safety and emergency operations, argued at a Jan. meeting that lawful gun owners carrying on campus may complicate active shooter situations for law enforcement.
“If they’re encountered by our police officers, and they don’t obey the police officer’s commands, then we’re worried that somebody innocent could be harmed,” Herron said.
Currently, it is legal for concealed-carry permit holders to keep a gun locked in their car’s glove box while on a public campus, and a bill recently referred to the House Judiciary Committee aims to repeal the permit requirement for gun owners to carry concealed handguns.