OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Legislation that would allow faculty members and administrators at Oklahoma's colleges and universities to carry concealed handguns on campus was narrowly approved by a state House committee Wednesday despite the pleas of school officials who argued it would make campuses more dangerous.
"This is not a good idea," said Roger Webb, president of the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond and the state's former commissioner of public safety. Webb said the presence of guns on college campuses will create unsafe conditions for students and faculty and that campus security should be the responsibility of trained law enforcement officers.
Chancellor of Higher Education Glen Johnson said all 25 college and university officials in the state oppose guns on campus. But the bill's author, Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, said the measure would provide a way for college professors and administrators to protect themselves and others during campus violence like the mass shootings in 2007 at Virginia Tech and 2008 at Northern Illinois.
"We're trusting these faculty members with your children," Terrill told members of the House Public Safety Committee. He said college administrators can already authorize faculty members to carry a concealed gun on campus if their safety is in jeopardy but that he was not aware of any instance where permission was granted.
"This really is throwing down the gauntlet to them," Terrill said, calling the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms a "fundamental, inalienable, God-given right." Webb, one of several college and university presidents who attended the meeting, later said he had twice given permission for a faculty member or administrator to carry a concealed weapon.
The measure, similar to a bill pending in the Senate, would authorize faculty and administrators who have state-issued concealed handgun permits to carry them on campus. Terrill said colleges and universities will still be able to issue campus-wide bans on handguns under the bill.
A 2008 measure that would have allowed active-duty military and reserve personnel, honorably discharged veterans and others with firearms training who held a state concealed weapons permit to carry concealed guns on campuses was approved by the House but was not heard in the Senate.
A report issued in 2008 by the Campus Life and Safety and Security Task Force recommended spending $16 million on safety and security issues at colleges and universities, conducting regular practice drills for emergency response plans and hiring more counselors. But it stopped short of recommending that guns be banned from campuses.
Supporters of the measure said college faculty members and administrators have a right to defend themselves. Oklahoma State University student Adrienne O'Reilly, a member of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, said about 70 colleges nationwide already allow concealed weapons on campus and there have been no incidents of gun violence. Colorado gives colleges the option and several have allowed handguns.
"There's a difference between feeling safe and being safe," she said.
"We have an inalienable right to self-defense," said Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, who said he is an adjunct professor at Seminole State College.
Committee members voted 9-8 to send the measure to the House floor.
The committee gave its approval to two other pieces of legislation involving gun rights, including one that would schedule a public referendum next year on whether to allow Oklahomans to openly carry a holstered firearm. The measure, similar to one approved by the Legislature but vetoed by former Gov. Brad Henry last year, passed 17-0
Another bill would lift a ban on guns in vehicles at CareerTech technology centers parking lots. Patrick McGregor of the Oklahoma CareerTech Association said CareerTech officials are opposed to the measure and believe it will place students in jeopardy. Its author, Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, said 34 states, including California, already allow the practice.
The measure passed 11-7 and was sent to the House floor.Tags: