The “Guns in Trunks” law that allows students to tote firearms in their vehicles onto a college campus is now left to the discretion of school administrations at private colleges.
Belmont University’s status as a private institution allowed Dr. Bob Fisher, university president, to make the decision to not implement the law on campus and maintain its stance as a weapons-free community.
Anthony Donovan, director of Residence Life, believes the correct decision was made.
“Students are encouraged to talk out issues civilly, having guns in trunks throws a wildcard into the equation,” Donovan said.
College students can be impulsive, a gun handy within walking distance could prove to be problematic, Donovan said.
If a gun were to be found in a student’s vehicle he or she would be referred to a student conduct board and the consequences would develop from there, Donovan continued.
Not all campus officials share Donovan’s views.
Belmont’s Chief of Campus Security, Terry White, said he does not believe the environment would change on campus if the law were to be implemented.
The law requires those who tote guns in their vehicles to procure a valid concealed carry permit, which has a minimum age requirement of 21. This dramatically confines the number of students who could legally carry a concealed firearm.
“To have a carry permit you need to be at least 21. That limits the number of Belmont students who can legally have one,” White said.
The manner in which White and the campus security officers approach their jobs would remain unchanged even if the law had been implemented on campus, White said.
“The law has been in effect since July 1 and I have not seen any change in the behavior of students or staff on campus,” White said.
Essentially, those who have never shown an interest in owning a gun will not all of a sudden become a gun nut, he said.
Vaughn May, a political science professor, believes a don’t ask, don’t tell situation will likely arise considering campus security officers are not authorized to search the cars of students and staff.
When legislation is prepared hastily issues like this arise, he said.
“The U.S. has a tendency to create public policy based on tragedy,” May said. “Public policy is made in a panic instead of considering facts and statistics.”
When national tragedies involving guns occur such as the Newtown elementary school shooting last winter, and even more recently the Naval Yard shooting in Washington D.C. on Monday, many people jumped onto a gun rights or gun control platform, May said.
For Hannah Raymond, a sophomore from Alaska and self-described advocate for firearm possession, the campus’ no-weapons policy has its merits.
She said that considering the tragedies that have occurred on college campuses in the past, paired with recent shootings, gives campus gun-toting an added layer of tension.
“Students should feel safe and at home on campus and not have to have excess stress,” Raymond said.