Back 

Guns on Campus: Overview

Guns on Campus: Overview

3/7/2014

In the wake of several campus shootings, the most deadly being the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech University, states are considering legislation about whether or not to permit guns on college campuses. For some, these events point to a need to ease existing firearm regulations and allow concealed weapons on campuses. Others see the solution in tightening restrictions to keep guns off campuses.

In 2013, at least 19 states introduced legislation to allow concealed carry on campus in some regard.  Two bills passed, one in Kansas that allows concelaed carry generally and one in Arkansas that allows faculty to carry.  The Kansas legislation creates a provision that colleges and universities cannot prohibit concealed carry unless a building has "adequate security measures," however, governing boards of the institutions may still request an exemption to prohibit for up to 4 years. Arkansas' bill allows faculty to carry, unless the governing board adopts a policy that expressly disallows faculty to carry.

On the other hand, recent shootings also have encouraged some legislators to strengthen existing firearm regulations. In 2013, 5 states introduced legislation to prohibit concealed carry weapons on campus. None of these bills passed.

Concealed Carry Weapon Laws and College Campuses

In the United States, all 50 states allow citizens to carry concealed weapons if they meet certain state requirements. Currently, there are 20 states that ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.

In 23 states the decision to ban or allow concealed carry weapons on campuses is made by each college or university individually: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.

Due to recent state legislation and court rulings, 7 states now have provisions allowing the carrying of concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses.  These states are Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin. In March 2014, Idaho's legislature passed a bill premitting concealed weapons on campus and making it the 7th state to permit guns on campus. 

Utah remains the only state to have statute specifically naming public colleges and universities as public entities that do not have the authority to ban concealed carry, and thus, all 10 public institutions in Utah allow concealed weapons on their property. Recently passed Kansas legislation creates a provision that colleges and universities cannot prohibit concealed carry unless a building has "adequate security measures," however, governing boards of the institutions may still request an exemption to prohibit for up to four years. Wisconsin legislation creates a provision that colleges and universities must allow concealed carry on campus grounds, however, campuses can prohibit weapons from campus buildings if signs are posted at every entrance explicitly stating that weapons are prohibited. All University of Wisconsin system campuses and technical community college districts are said to be putting this signage in place. Legislation passed in Mississippi in 2011 creates an exception to allow concealed carry on college campuses for those who have taken a voluntary course on safe handling and use of firearms by a certified instructor.

Recent court cases have also overturned some long standing system wide bans of concealed carry on state college and university campuses.  In March 2012, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the University of Colorado’s policy banning guns from campus violates the state’s concealed carry law, and in 2011 the Oregon Court of Appeals overturned the Oregon University System’s ban of guns on campuses, allowing those with permits to carry concealed guns on the grounds of these public colleges (Oregon's State Board of Higher Education retained its authority to have internal policies for certain areas of campus, and adopted a new policy in 2012 that bans guns in campus buildings). In both cases, it was ruled that state law dictates only the legislature can regulate the use, sale and possession of firearms, and therefore these systems had overstepped their authority in issuing the bans.  See the "Guns on Campus: Campus Action," page for more information on these rulings, board policies and other campuses that allow concealed carry on their grounds.

For up-to-date information on legislation, see the Education Bill Tracking Database. Search under the topic "Postsecondary - Campus Safety."

Additional Resources

Share this: 
NCSL Summit Resources
We are the nation's most respected bipartisan organization providing states support, ideas, connections and a strong voice on Capitol Hill.

NCSL Member Toolbox

Denver

7700 East First Place
Denver, CO 80230
Tel: 303-364-7700 | Fax: 303-364-7800

Washington

444 North Capitol Street, N.W., Suite 515
Washington, D.C. 20001
Tel: 202-624-5400 | Fax: 202-737-1069

Copyright 2014 by National Conference of State Legislatures