October 1 started just like any other day in Roseburg, Oregon. At 10:38 a.m., however, gunfire was reported on the Umpqua Community College campus. Officers responded quickly, and 10 minutes later, the gunman killed himself after being wounded. Nine people including the gunman were dead at the scene with one more dying in the hospital. This event, like many others before it, thrust both schools and gun violence back into the spotlight.
For many, the issue of guns can be a touchy subject in both directions. One of the many questions that arise is the legality of conceal carry on college campuses.
According to Utah code 53B-3-103, the regulation of firearms on campuses of higher education is left to the state legislature. The institutions are, however, allowed to encourage dorm residents to request roommates who do not have a conceal carry and to enforce rules pertaining to private hearing rooms.
Because of this statute, Weber State, along with nine other campuses of higher education within the state, allow conceal carry permit holders to carry concealed firearms on campus. Weber State Police Chief Dane LeBlanc commonly answers questions as to the legality of carrying a concealed weapon on campus.
“Typically, when I get asked questions about ‘can I carry my concealed weapon on campus,’ I help them understand that, for us, concealed means concealed,” said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc defines concealed as being hidden, concealed or put away in a manner that no one would know you have it. “So if you put it in your purse, you’re OK. If you put it in your backpack, you’re OK. As long as it’s put away and cannot be seen, that meets the concealment requirements here.”
LeBlanc also reminds those who carry on campus that there are two sides and to keep it to themselves if they carry.
“At the end of the day, one person letting other people know ‘I have my concealed carry weapon with me, and I carry it all the time’ creates fear and intimidation for others in the classroom, and it interferes with their ability to go to a class and feel safe,” he said.
LeBlanc said that the accidental viewing of a firearm has kept students from returning to that classroom and has even made some faculty members nervous about a particular student because they have a concealed firearm. LeBlanc says that the issues are rare but that he and the police are prepared to ask a carrying student to leave if he or she abuses the privilege.
State Rep. Norman Thurston supports the conceal carry on campus and believes that Utah students should be granted the same rights as others.
“Students, college students especially, they’re adults, and they should have the same rights as everyone else to obtain a conceal carry permit and carry a firearm or other weapons to defend themselves,” he said. “Why should the fact they’re going to school instead of working make a difference?”
LeBlanc agrees with the privilege to carry but asks students to make it fair for everyone.
“So let’s just be fair to you the conceal carry permit holder and make sure you’re allowed to carry without any interference,” he said, “and also that you respect those on the other side that are afraid of guns and just prefer they not be in school, and if nobody knows you have it, then that meets everybody’s needs.”