Students at the University of Minnesota want to fight a campus crime wave the constitutional way: by bearing arms. Last week, a coalition of student groups launched the “Allow Campus Carry” campaign in an effort to put the state school in harmony with a state law that allows guns on campuses.
While concealed carry is legal on campuses under Minnesota state law, colleges are granted the authority to determine whether to allow it or not. The university’s Board of Regents has opted to ban guns on campus.
The push to permit firearms comes after a wave of robberies and muggings last semester. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that robberies, ranging from break-ins to armed assaults, jumped 27 percent in the fall. In November, authorities briefly shut the university down following an attempted armed robbery on campus.
While the university has responded by pledging to increase patrol units and install more cameras, some students say it isn’t enough. Last week, the Minnesota College Republicans, Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, Young Americans for Liberty, and the conservative Minnesota Republic newspaper all called for the university to reverse its ban for people older than 21.
“The main idea is to get people starting to talk about the campus-carry issue at the university,” College Republican chairman Susan Eckstein tells National Review Online. She said the coalition was “trying to get a provocative message out there,” not to only attract new supporters, but also to encourage silent gun-rights backers to make their voices heard.
Over four days of on-campus petitioning last week, Eckstein and others got about 250 signatures from students and faculty supporting the effort. The cause even attracted some campus star power: Miss Minneapolis 2014, Julia Schliesing, a senior at Minnesota, is a fan.
A registered and trained gun owner herself, Schliesing tells NRO she was “shocked” to find students weren’t allowed to carry when she first came to campus. Because of the lack of security, Schliesing says she often has to call someone to walk with her when heading home after evening class.
The increased lighting and cameras on campus “have really not done anything” to increase security, she says.
“To think [these incidents are] happening, and the university is not allowing students who have taken these courses and are responsible enough,” Schliesing says. “It really says to me that the university does not trust us or respect our rights and safety.”
Eckstein, Schliesing, and other supporters will continue to collect signatures through an online petition and hope to present their case before the Board of Regents this semester.
“Everyone that I’ve spoken to is for what we want to do,” Schliesing says. “They understand our logic and reasoning behind it.”
— Andrew Johnson is an editorial associate at National Review Online.