Gun rights advocate sues U. of M. over concealed carry. Can firearms make campuses safer?

One Ann Arbor resident thinks the University of Michigan is violating the second amendment by banning guns on campus and argues concealed carry can help protect potential victims of sexual assault.

Ralph Barrera/Austin American-Statesman/AP
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs into law bills letting Texans carry concealed handguns on college campuses and openly carry them virtually everywhere else at Red's Indoor Range in Pfulgerville, Texas, Saturday, June 13, 2015.

Ann Arbor resident Joshua Wade sued the University of Michigan after the institution denied him a permit to openly carry a gun on campus, the Detroit Free Press reported.

“Mr. Wade lives and works in Ann Arbor and is often near the U-M campus,” his attorney, Steven Dulan, told the Free Press. “He wants to make it clear that U-M must comply with state law.”

Wade’s lawsuit argues that the Second Amendment protects the individual right of the people to keep and bear arms, the Free Press noted.

U-M policy “prohibits the possession of firearms, dangerous weapons or dangerous knives on campus or at events.”

Violation of this rule – owning or using weapons on campus – will be considered non-academic misconduct and subject to disciplinary action “unless approved by the Department of Public Safety; such approval will be given only in extraordinary circumstances,” the university’s website notes.

The University of Michigan has denounced Wade’s request to lift the weapons ban on campus.

“The university will vigorously defend its right to regulate weapons on campus to ensure the safety of students, faculty, staff, patients, health-care providers, and hundreds of thousands of visitors, and to foster a supportive learning environment where students and faculty can feel free to explore challenging topics without fear of violence,” U-M spokesman Rick Fitzgerald said in an email to the Free Press.

The state's other major university, Michigan State, allows concealed carry of firearms on their campus, and to this date has had no major incidents, Wade’s attorney told Fox News on Tuesday.

Wade also spoke with Fox News and said a repeal of the concealed carry ban could actually make campuses safer by reducing chances of campus sexual assault. He referenced a study released by the university in June, which found about 20 percent of female undergraduates say they experienced non-consensual sexual behavior in the past year.

“Why does the university want to disarm [potential victims?] Why do they want to make these women helpless? It just doesn’t make any sense to me,” Wade said on Fox and Friends.

His argument is not a new one.

“If you’ve got a person that’s raped because you wouldn’t let them carry a firearm to defend themselves, I think you’re responsible,” State Representative Dennis K. Baxley of Florida said during debate in a House subcommittee last month, according to The New York Times.

But this logic has come under scrutiny because of the complicated emotional circumstances that often accompany sexual assault.

According to The Times, some experts said such experiences were usually perpetrated “by someone they knew, sometimes a friend, so even if [victims] had access to their gun, they would rarely be tempted to use it.”

“If you have a rape situation, usually it starts with some sort of consensual behavior, and by the time it switches to nonconsensual, it would be nearly impossible to run for a gun,” John D. Foubert, an Oklahoma State University professor and national president of One in Four, which provides educational programs on sexual assault to college campuses, told The Times. “Maybe if it’s someone who raped you before and is coming back, it theoretically could help them feel more secure.”

Other experts also doubt the ability of guns on campus to create a safer environment.

William Spelman, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told the Los Angeles Times he had never seen an academic study on campus-carry laws and their role in preventing violent crime at colleges.

He said that “rather than driving down crime, concealed weapons would probably lead to accidents and higher rates of suicide at universities across the state.”

Retired Navy Admiral William McRaven ran US Special Operations Command and oversaw the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. Now, he’s chancellor of the University of Texas System and vocal critic of a law passed by Texas legislature in June, which will allow concealed handguns on college campuses. He shared his insights with National Public Radio.

“I did feel and I felt that the introduction of weapons would make the campuses less safe. Having said that, now that we have to implement this, I'm going to take every step possible to ensure the maximum safety,” Admiral McRaven told NPR.

McRaven did say, however, that appreciated that the legislature gave colleges “the latitude to take a look at where we allow guns on campus” and said extra scrutiny would be given to sporting events and “venues where emotions get high.”

According to The LA Times, eight states allow guns on college campuses, and most other states allow individual campuses to determine whether students with proper licenses should be able to carry their guns at school. Nineteen states ban concealed guns at colleges altogether.

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