Guns make colleges safer

Mass public shootings are a horrific feature of modern life. Many of the bloodiest examples of this scourge have occurred on college campuses. As professors, we are particularly sensitive to this danger.

Despite this – no, because of this – we support a bill currently pending in the Texas Legislature that would permit the concealed carrying of firearms on college and university campuses in the state by holders of concealed-handgun permits.

Any public policy involving matters of life and death should be decided only after weighing carefully the competing risks. Examining the relevant facts and data indicates that permitting Texas permit holders to carry weapons on college campuses would improve safety because:

•The best available empirical evidence shows that concealed-carry laws reduce the incidence of mass public shootings.

•Mass public shootings occur almost exclusively in places – like universities – where concealed carry is proscribed.

•There are numerous examples of firearms owners acting to disarm would-be mass murderers, thereby saving lives.

•Concealed-handgun-permit holders are overwhelmingly law-abiding individuals.

If gun bans truly reduced the risk of mass public shootings, then gun-free zones would be refuges from such havoc. Sadly, the exact opposite is true. All multiple-victim public shootings in the United States with more than three fatalities have occurred where concealed handguns are prohibited. Moreover, the worst primary and secondary school shootings have occurred in Europe, despite its draconian gun laws.

Furthermore, peer-reviewed research demonstrates that the passage of a concealed-carry law reduces incidents of mass public shootings. Tellingly, those episodes that have occurred in states allowing concealed carry overwhelmingly happened in places like schools and malls, where concealed carry was prohibited.

These facts should not be surprising. Gun-free zones are magnets for killers bent on maximizing their body count. They know that they face far less risk of quickly being stopped there. There are numerous cases in which private firearm owners have disarmed or disabled those attempting to murder indiscriminately in public places.

In such circumstances, police officers and other “first responders” are anything but. The true first responders are often armed citizens who are in the line of fire. The possibility that a legally armed citizen could distract or disable an assailant could be the difference between life and death for potential victims.

Nor are the benefits of permitting concealed carry on campus limited to its effect on the likelihood of mass carnage. Numerous peer-reviewed academic studies document that concealed-carry laws reduce rates of violent crime. Therefore, extending the right to carry will also help reduce the rates of crimes against individuals that occur all too frequently in gun-free zones, such as college campuses.

On risks that concealed-carry licensees pose to their fellow citizens, the record is abundantly clear. Based on recent data, Texas permit holders commit misdemeanors and felonies at a rate of about one-seventh that of the rest of the population. For violent crimes, the rates are even lower.

Opponents of permitting concealed carry on campus raise concerns about guns in dormitories. These are misplaced. The bill would allow universities to prohibit weapon storage in dorms.

When concealed-carry laws were first proposed, opponents prophesied a plague of indiscriminate gunplay. It didn’t happen. Similar apocalyptic fears are being raised now. The facts, though, demonstrate that concealed carry will reduce mass shootings.

As college professors, we want to reduce the odds of a Virginia Tech massacre happening on a Texas college campus. That’s why we encourage the Texas Legislature to allow concealed carry on the state’s college campuses.

Theodore Day is a professor of finance and Stan Liebowitz is the Ashbel Smith Professor of Economics, both at the University of Texas at Dallas; Craig Pirrong is a professor of finance at the University of Houston.