In light of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, students and teachers are becoming increasingly aware of the presence of, and the option to, carry firearms on campus.
Campus Security Director Don Reid said he knows the number of on-campus concealed weapon carriers is growing due to how many openly inform campus security about their permits.
“In the last three to four years we have far more concealed weapons on campus than we ever saw before,” Reid said. “Of those that declare to me that they’ve got a permit, I’m assuming there’s probably 10 that don’t want anybody to know.”
Reid said he can easily attribute this rise in citizens’ desires to obtain concealed firearm permits to the shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary.
Courtney Odorizzi, a junior art major from St. George, said she has had nightmares about shootings in public places.
“These shootings have seriously freaked me out,” Odorizzi said. “Now it’s always in the back of my mind; I’m always paranoid about it.”
Rowdy’s Range and Shooters Supply, located at 200 N. 1000 East, is a local gun shop and facility for firearm safety and training courses. Colby Seegmiller, the vice president of sales and marketing at Rowdy’s, said the owner of Rowdy’s Range wished to do something in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre:offer the concealed carry course for free.
“Rowdy came to me and said, ‘I want to do something for the teachers. Let’s offer them the concealed carry course for free,’” Seegmiller said.
Seegmiller said the concealed firearm permit class has since been full, and he and his colleagues have decided to extend the deal for teachers through February.
The regular course feeis $60. The background check required to obtain a concealed firearm permit is $46, which still must be paid to the state.
“A lot of the teachers are concerned about safety in the school, and if something happens, then they want to be able to do something about it,” said Brett Pruitt, an assistant instructor at Rowdy’s Range.
Assistant professor of communication Eric Young also teaches a class at Rowdy’s Range and has a concealed firearm permit of his own.
Young said while he doesn’t believe it’s every teacher’s duty to protect his or her students, he’s made it a personal choice to ensure his students stay safe.
“Columbine really was the first time I realized as a teacher I am inherently responsible for the safety of my students,” Young said.
Both Pruitt and Seegmiller said it’s up to the carrier to decide if the purpose of carrying a firearm is to self-protect or to protect others.
“The reasons for carrying a firearm are different for everyone, and I leave that up to them, but the act of carrying a firearm does come with responsibility,” Pruitt said. “They’re not for everybody.”
Many students have also filled the classrooms at Rowdy’s Range.
“We definitely think students should be prepared if they chose to carry,” Seegmiller said.
Erin Jagger, a senior integrated studies major from Huntington Beach, Calif., has a concealed firearm permit. She said she doesn’t normally bring her weapon to school, but after all the recent shootings she may change that habit.
“It’s something that could happen,” Jagger said. “There are more and more [shootings] happening every day in small, tight-knit communities like ours, so I would never say, ‘It couldn’t happen here.’”
Along with the increase of students and teachers with concealed firearm permits, incidents on campus involving firearms have also become more common.
Reid said last semester three students became nervous when the gun holstered at a fellow student’s waist was accidentally exposed.
While the owner of the gun did possess a concealed firearm permit, the students approached the professor and expressed they did not wish to return to class because they felt threatened by the gun’s presence.
Reid also said last semester another student found a firearm sitting unattended in a study area where its owner had forgotten it. Campus Security officials tracked down the owner of the gun to find that he indeed had a concealed weapon permit.
“We had to return it to him, and there was nothing we could charge him with,” Reid said.
In both instances, Reid said while students can be taken before student affairs by causing peers to be fearful or nervous, there’s not really anything else campus security can do.
“There is no state statute that says I can charge somebody for wearing a concealed weapon on campus with a permit,” Reid said.
Jagger said she thinks irresponsible gun owners make other gun owners look bad, and it’s also unfair to be afraid of someone who carries a gun.
Odorizzi said she thinks carrying a firearm on campus could be beneficial because it’s an option for self-protection, but she also worries having firearms at disposal might enlarge the number of gun incidents.
“I worry about getting too many guns out there, and I think it might just increase the problem,” Odorizzi said.
Young said he only hopes whoever owns a firearm has the training that goes along with it.
“Without the training you are more vulnerable than you were without the weapon,” Young said. “You cause a danger to yourself.”
While professional firearm training is not required to obtain a concealed firearm permit, Seegmiller said it is highly recommended.
Jagger, who has had professional firearm training, also said she has mixed feelings about knowing other students on campus are carrying concealed firearms.
“If you go out of your way to get the permit, then I would hope it would also mean you are more responsible and hopefully more educated about guns,” Jagger said.