The SRU Young Progressives hosted an open discussion about campus carry Wednesday night in response to the College Republicans’ campus carry rally Saturday afternoon.
The hour-long event was attended by about 75 students, faculty members and community members that came together to express their opinions at the discussion, moderated by Dr. Cindy LaCom, director of the gender studies program.
Caitlyn Kilmer, senior political science and philosophy double major and president of the Young Progressives, said that the open discussion about campus carry was in response to the Young Republicans’ campus carry rally. Kilmer said that this discussion was the Young Progressive’s way of letting students know that there can still be civil discussions about campus carry.
“When we start to fight and yell at each other, we start to look at each other as the bad guy,” Kilmer said. “But none of us are the bad guys.”
LaCom said she wanted to moderate the discussion because she felt that tensions were high after last week’s College Republicans rally.
“I felt there was a need to address the issue in a more tempered, conversational and respectful manner for everybody’s concern,” LaCom said. “I do a lot of discussion-based classes, I’m very comfortable moderating discussions, and I think it’s an important issue.”
LaCom began the discussion asking, “Do you think that the rise in gun violence, specifically in educational settings, affects your ability to feel comfortable as a student at a university?”
Students expressed various opinions on this topic. One student attending the open discussion said that he does not feel more fearful in the rise of gun violence because there are war zones everywhere in the world. Other students expressed concern about the rise of gun violence, questioning what would what happen if a shooter enters a classroom.
Other students recognized that mass shootings are significant in the U.S. but said they are more worried about getting struck by lightning or getting hit by a car, saying that there are more reckless things than guns.
The discussion transitioned into the second question of the night, “To what extent do you feel your Second Amendment right is infringed at SRU?”
Students once again expressed differing opinions on the Second Amendment infringement. One student mentioned that she believes not everything in the Constitution is absolute and that this right is being infringed upon on campus because there are students who don’t want guns on campus.
One student said that he believes his Second Amendment right is infringed upon, and that his safety stops the minute he enters a classroom, but still believes that rules for carrying on SRU’s campus should be expanded to those 21 and over with a clean record.
Another student said that she would feel safer if a student with a concealed carry would be allowed to carry into the classroom, rather than leave their car. Slippery Rock Borough police confirmed that students carrying guns on campus could store them in the police station’s gun locker.
Another said that no matter how anyone feels about the Second Amendment, it only affects victims. He said that if someone wanted to mass shoot a school, nothing was going to stop them.
Moderator LaCom brought up the relation to gun violence in comparison with gender. One student said that guns are an equalizing factor against a larger opponent. The student also said that he would want his sister to carry against a larger attacker.
A student brought up the opinion that obtaining a conceal carry permit is for them to protect themselves, not everyone. One student said that he believed in the situation of an active shooter, the student with a concealed carry protecting against the active shooter would then become the active shooter.
Dr. Emily Keener, a psychology professor at SRU, who is married to a gun owner, believes there are more than the two options in this issue. She said that she would like to learn more about situations where it’s effective to have guns but understands that there are limits.
This comment brought the third question of the evening asked by LaCom, “Have you considered the implications of less restrictive gun policy on marginalized, minoritized students, some of whom are already facing, for example, racial profiling.”
One student said that he believes more concealed carry permits would decrease racial profiling, stating that if he wanted to execute someone, he would just do it, and not look at the law book. He then brought up the question, “Why are we giving fewer permits to those who want to do good?”
One student brought up the Center for Disease Control and how they use private funding to support gun research and develop statistics, mentioning that the FBI is one of the only agencies that can use federal funding to collect data on guns.
As moderator, LaCom saw the open forum successful as many students spoke their minds on gun policies.
“I feel that multiple perspectives were represented in quite thoughtful ways,” LaCom said. “And though many were silent, we heard from a fairly representative number of student voices and some faculty and community voices.”
LaCom said that more discussions must happen in the future to keep the conversation going on campus.
“An hour doesn’t do justice to the complexities in topic,” LaCom said. “It’s a topic of critical importance.”
Kilmer said that the Young Progressives are very open to the idea of a well-structured, well-moderated discussion about campus carry and other topics with the College Republicans.
“We need to hear each other out,” Kilmer said. “We’re a community. At the end of the day, we all live near each other. We’re neighbors and friends. We really need to be listening to each other instead of yelling at each other.”