Campus weapons bill fails this session

Brittany Williams, veterinary medicine major who opposes guns on campus, can rest easy for now since Senate Bill 858 — “The Firearm Owner Privacy Act,” that would permit citizens with concealed carry licenses in Oklahoma to bring concealed weapons onto college campuses — is now dead, at least until the next legislative session.

The bill passed the Oklahoma Senate 44-4 but was never heard by a House committee, according to the Oklahoma State webserver.

Williams said, in particular, she fears the possible actions of irrational thinkers and heroes should the bill eventually pass.

“I think you need the time — if you have a gun — to think about using it,” Williams said.

Senate Bill 858 was authored by State Sen. Steve Russell (R-District 45, Oklahoma City).

According to House rules, it’s considered dormant this session but could be considered again next year.

A few other states, including Colorado, Michigan, Utah, and Virginia, permit firearms on campuses.

Russell cited Colorado State University as an example on how concealed carry on large college campuses can work.

“What about the five-foot, two-inch college professor walking out late at night after class who has no recourse to defend herself?” he said.

Russell said he thinks the rights of every American should be assured.

“If people think the mere presence of firearms is evil then America has lost its way. I owned firearms and kept them in my dorm room [at Ouchita Baptist University in Arkadelphia Ark.] for hunting purposes.”

Gov. Mary Fallin has yet to take a stand either way on the bill.

In an e-mail, Alex Weintz, Fallin’s communications director said, “Gov. Fallin is waiting to review what legislation, if any, makes it to her desk before offering a commitment.

She is, however, a strong supporter of 2nd Amendment rights and supports the principle behind open carry.”

Jerry Steward, OCCC executive vice president, said he thinks about the safety of OCCC students, faculty, and staff every day but doesn’t agree with SB 858.

He said OCCC leadership has consistently stated there is no evidence that having people carrying guns on campus makes the general population safer.

“It has been the consistent position of the leadership of this institution,” he said.

“It is the constant position of the leadership of every other public institution of higher education in Oklahoma. It has been the consistent position of the state regents and the Chancellor (of Higher Education) Glen Johnson. It continues to be our position.”

Steward said he has spoken with numerous legislators over the years, talking to them about concealed weapons on campuses and OCCC’s position on them.

“Everyone recognizes this isn’t a perfect world and we cannot absolutely guarantee everyone’s safety but we need to do everything we can to make sure people on campus are safe.

“We believe they will not make us safer, (and) will make us less safe if we have people carrying guns,” he said.

Steward said he knows the bill has many supporters and, as a result, the bill will continue to be pushed.

“I would anticipate the individuals who believe otherwise and even those individuals who are trying to have weapons allowed on our campuses will continue to pursue their belief (that) it’s better for us to have people allowed to have guns concealed or open.”

Steward said regardless of which position is taken, it’s important for everyone to contact their senator or representative to voice their opinions on weapons bills.

“If you’re opposed to having guns on campus or if you’re for it, contact your senator, contact your house representative, and let them know how you feel,” he said.

“Whether it’s pro or con, don’t sit quietly and assume it will all work out OK.”

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