End soft targets, end gun free zones

Yet again, tragedy strikes, a life is lost, and the University of North Carolina campus becomes another statistic as one more person is killed in a gun free zone. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the faculty member who was murdered in Chapel Hill. Yet, as anti-gun activists frequently say, thoughts and prayers are not enough. Saving innocent lives will require action. This tragedy could have been avoided, and future similar incidents could be greatly reduced, if more members of the university community were armed and trained.

North Carolina is one of 15 states that prohibits any form of campus carry on college or university campuses. The charge for being found with a weapon is a felony. This includes faculty and students, even if they have permits to own and carry firearms off campus.

North Carolinians and students from across the country are forced to walk defenseless into institutions of higher learning, only relying on campus and city police to protect them. Law enforcement cannot guard every classroom, every dining hall, every dorm, every entrance. This is no fault of the officers, of course, but when seconds matter, the police are minutes away.

For this reason, students and faculty must be allowed to protect themselves, their friends, and their colleagues. Statistics show that over 94% of mass shootings take place in gun free zones. Yet, on campus, people are expected to live, study, and work for hours a day in soft target zones, at the mercy of anyone intent on mayhem and violence.

Clearly, criminals do not respect the gun free zone sign. Murder is already illegal and that did not stop the UNC killer. These regulations only endanger people who are responsible, law-abiding citizens, as they are prohibited from defending themselves and others.

Taking a different approach, colleges like Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, have allowed concealed carry for almost a decade with no shootings on campus. The Virginia campus carry law is not perfect, but they do at least give the option to colleges and universities to make that decision. Liberty University sets a notable example of how allowing students and faculty to arm themselves does not create dangerous situations but quite the opposite. Campus carry provides a safe, respectful environment in which to learn.

No campus carry law that has been passed is perfect. However, Texas has the overall best law, as they prohibit public universities from banning guns on campus. Students and faculty 21 and older are able to exercise their Second Amendment rights, but those under 21 are unable to legally carry on campus. Despite this flaw, Texas has at least liberated its campuses from completely being soft targets.

Other states should adopt Texas’s campus carry law by prohibiting public universities from creating “gun free” zones — areas that are only gun free for law abiding citizens but shooting ranges for criminals who disregard the law.

Our lawmakers must stop imposing unconstitutional laws on the people. Instead, they need to be reminded to act in accordance with the Constitution, which, to reiterate, states, “The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” For the safety of all, this must not exclude college or university campuses.

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