Survey: Majority of university presidents oppose firearms on campus

More than 90 percent said they fear the potential for accidental shootings

June 05--By an overwhelming majority, college and university presidents say they do not want concealed guns on their campuses, according to a new national survey.

The study by Ball State University in Indiana found that 95 percent of the 401 presidents surveyed oppose concealed handguns on campus. Of those, 91 percent said they fear accidental shootings.

In New Mexico, state law prohibits carrying a firearm on "university premises," with five exceptions: peace officers; university security personnel; students, instructors or other authorized personnel engaged in ROTC or state-authorized hunter-safety programs; anyone "conducting or participating in a university-approved program, class or other activity involving the carrying of a firearm"; and anyone at least 19 years old "in a private automobile ... for lawful protection of ... property."

The law also mandates universities to "conspicuously post notices on university premises that state that it is unlawful to carry a firearm on university premises."

New Mexico State University Police Chief Stephen Lopez said the decision on allowing guns on campus, in many cases, should be left up to individual institutions because not all schools are the same. He noted that NMSU's campus includes 170 square miles, and that hunting has long been permitted on much of that property.

"If we say, 'No guns on campus,' then we need to define 'campus'," he said.

Otherwise, New Mexico State follows the state statute "as it relates to primary academic areas," Lopez said.

University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College ban virtually all firearms. Only law enforcement officers are permitted to bring guns onto campus.

Like the state's universities, CNM posts signs warning "No Weapons on Campus." Its policy states: "Carrying, possessing or storing weapons and/or firearms on CNM property or in the employee's vehicle while the vehicle is on CNM property is prohibited."

A co-author of the study, Jagdish Khubchandani, said campuses are one of the safest places for students, "and college leaders want to keep it that way." He noted that the presidents' views seem to coincide with their students'. In a separate study of 15 Midwestern schools last year, Ball State found that 78 percent of college students strongly opposed allowing guns on campus.

The survey of college presidents found that 79 percent did not own a firearm, and 57 percent grew up in a home without a gun. About 5 percent of presidents have a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

The study, published by the Journal of American College Health, also found:

--About 65 percent of the presidents are against allowing concealed handguns off campus.

--About 98 percent believe students and faculty feel safe on their campuses.

--In addition, 92 percent said most faculty and students would feel unsafe if people were allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus.

--Crime involving guns was reported at 7 percent of the campuses in the past year.

--Less than half of the presidents said their faculties and student bodies are trained to respond to an active shooter on campus.

Faculty members from the University of Toledo also participated in the study, called "University Presidents' Perceptions and Practice Regarding the Carrying of Concealed Handguns on College Campuses."

Copyright 2014 - Albuquerque Journal, N.M.