STORY BY KATHERINE BAUER
Texas passed legislation in June to allow students with permits to carry concealed firearms on college and university campuses starting in August 2016.
Other states are also considering this option. Ideally, this would allow students to protect themselves and others from a campus shooter.
Scott Law, Drake’s Director for Campus Public Safety, along with other members of campus law enforcement and public safety were surveyed on this option several years ago.
“In general, I think the vast majority of us think it’s not the best of ideas,” Law said. “I’m not opposed to guns. I think citizens who have been trained and legally meet the requirements to be able to carry concealed, should be able to do so.”
However, most students on Drake’s campus do not meet the legal requirements to carry a firearm. As in most states, Iowans must be 21 years of age to attain a nonprofessional permit to carry a firearm.
Firearms are prohibited on Drake’s campus unless authorized by the University or carried by members of Public Safety or the Des Moines police force.
Drake’s decision to restrict firearms on campus was made in part because of the three major universities in Iowa.
Firearms are not allowed by state statute on Iowa State University property, which is similar policy at the University of Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa.
“At some point, the safety of the public comes above the other rights,” Andrea Charlow, Associate Dean of Drake Law School, said. “You have a right to have a gun, but you don’t have the right to shoot me. I have a right to be protected. I have a right to be safe. There have to be some limits.”
Charlow grew up in the countryside where hunting season meant keeping children and animals inside for fear of untrained hunters mistakenly shooting them.
She feels that most people with guns are not properly trained or in control.
“I learned how to shoot guns. I know how to shoot guns,” said Charlow, who has been a professor at Drake since 1982. “If you take an untrained person and put them in a stressful situation, they’re likely to hit the wrong person. I’ve had students get angry. It doesn’t happen that often. They get excited and do things they otherwise wouldn’t do.”
While he feels that most gun owners are cautious, law abiding citizens, Law noted the small possibility for a student with a firearm to actually stop a shooter on campus.
If a gunman were on campus, the odds would be slim that an individual of legal age to carry a gun would be in the same area as the gunman and would have actually brought their gun with them to campus that day.
“We know that in the case of almost every single active shooting that has occurred in the United States to date, the active shooter has only been stopped when confronted by an individual with a firearm,” Law said. “Having been a police officer, one of the things you spend a lot of time thinking about is, ‘After I pull the trigger can I live with myself? Can I live with what the result of this is going to be?’”
Neither Charlow nor Law could say for sure if they could see Drake or Iowa developing a policy to allow students to carry firearms on campus.
Law, however, said that if policies and restrictions changed at the three public universities to allow students to carry guns on campus, Drake would likely want to revisit their policy and see if it would align.