Students protest concealed carry ban

Kansas University junior Eric Stein displays a gun holster that he wore to class Monday. Stein, a member of the national Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, is participating in a week-long protest aimed at promoting concealed carry on college campuses.

If Eric Stein gets his way, students at Kansas University would be allowed to bring concealed weapons to campus – so long as they have the proper state permit.

Stein, a Topeka junior, is the president of the local chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, which has organized a nationwide “Empty Holsters” protest for this week. The campaign involves members of SCCC wearing their holsters to class and on campus – but without guns – as a visual reminder that concealed carry on campus is illegal, which members of the group object.

“Since the (Northern Illinois) shooting, it’s become abundantly clear to a lot of students that no-gun signs, no-carry signs on campus really don’t do anything to mitigate a situation such as a campus shooter,” Stein said. Six students died, including the shooter, when a man opened fire in a classroom at Northern Illinois University in February.

SCCC reports having 52 members at KU. Members support allowing licensed students to carry firearms on campus, though not all members are interested in carrying.

“I don’t know if I feel comfortable carrying on campus right now, but I would be more comfortable on campus if people on our side could carry,” said SCCC member Brittany Ramos, an Air Force ROTC cadet from Overland Park.

Ramos added that she feels safe on campus during the day, though not as safe at night. Ramos said the empty holster project was a way to draw publicity to the cause without violence and without scaring people.

“KU regulations and state law are very clear on this subject, but students are welcome to express their opinions,” KU spokeswoman Jill Jess said.

The Kansas Board of Regents last week endorsed a no-weapons policy on all of its campuses and directed campus leaders to devise a common set of standards for posting no-weapons signs and handling violators. Right now, KU forbids people from carrying while driving on campus streets or while parked on campus.

“Securing our campuses is an ongoing challenge, and our work will never be done in this arena. However, we must never forget that continued diligence on this issue is a vital priority,” Christine Downey-Schmidt, regents chairwoman, said.

Stein said there are successful examples of concealed carry at college campuses in five states.

“In Utah, all nine universities allow concealed carry on campus. Colorado State and a community college in Virginia allow concealed carry,” Stein said. “There are a combined 60 semesters on those campuses without an increase in gun violence or negligent shootings.”