Why Ben Carson wants more guns on campus

Dr. Carson joins Donald Trump and other Republicans supporting students’ right to bear arms, as Texans continue to fight over a bill to let guns not just on campus, but in class.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters
US Republican candidate Ben Carson speaks during an appearance on Fox News Channel's 'Hannity' in New York on Monday.

Presidential hopeful Ben Carson joined a chorus of Republicans in calling for more guns on college campuses when he sat down with USA Today’s Capital Download hosts this week to celebrate today’s launch of his new book, "A More Perfect Union: What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties."

Legal guns, Dr. Carson says, are one of those liberties. He suggested that keeping schools from pre-K to college campuses gun-free leads to danger, rather than preventing it. Gunmen “aren’t likely to go into a place where they are likely to get shot,” he told Susan Page and Derek McGinty.

Carson, a gun owner himself – like roughly one in three Americans – also objects to bans on assault weapons, saying that they set the country up for possible “tyranny” if private citizens could not fight back, whether against an aggressive government, or each other.

Recent polls show that, among the Republican field, Carson trails only Donald Trump, who also spoke out in favor of armed campuses after last week’s horrific shooting at Umpqua Community College. The concept has been pushed by the National Rifle Association and some K-12 teachers, who may carry a concealed weapon in seven states, but likely opposed by most educators.

According to Reuters, Umpqua Community College banned guns on campus, but students report seeing them anyway; under state law, those with concealed carry permits are allowed to bring them to school. Gun rights advocates have suggested after Thursday’s massacre, and many more, that an armed "good guy" could have stopped the "bad guy."

The issue is gaining momentum on college campuses, in particular. In the first three months of 2015, 15 state legislatures had introduced bills to allow firearms on campus; at least 20 states already permit some type of gun carrying on campus.

In Texas, home to a massive public university system with more than 200,000 students, many faculty are staunchly opposed to a law set to go into effect this summer, which will let students bring their weapons not just on campus, but into class.

The concealed carry law, which would apply to public schools, is set to go into effect on August 1, 2016, the 50th anniversary of University of Texas student Charles Whitman’s 1966 massacre, when he climbed the UT-Austin clock tower and killed 16 people – the worst US college shooting until 2007.

Supporters say that more guns, not fewer, are exactly what it takes to stop such deadly attacks.

But more than 300 faculty disagree, and have signed a petition stating they will not permit armed students into their class.

UT System Chancellor William McRaven, a retired Navy admiral credited for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, feels similarly.

Mr. McRaven, who described himself to NPR as “a big Second Amendment guy,” cautioned lawmakers that the measure could damage not only campus safety, but recruitment and even academic freedom.

But his opposition may wane now that the bill has passed. Discussing the law with NPR’s Ari Shapiro in June, he explained, “my time in the military has always been one that taught me that, you know, you argue a point up until a decision is made.” 

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