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Presence of guns on campus does not change its culture

By Stephen Feltoon, Guest Columnist

In an April 12 article entitled "Upcoming open carry rally evokes call to maintain Miami's peaceful campus", Evan Fackler expressed his opposition to such a "rally," hiding behind the ideal that Miami is a place of serenity and peace, with no need for armed, meddling outsiders who are not members of the Miami community. As a 2007 graduate who lives in a city in which Miami has a branch campus, I am undeniably a member of the Miami Community and I will be participating in the open carry walk.

Recently, the University issued a statement informing students of the planned event. In 2007, Miami issued a similar campus-wide email when I planned a week-long empty holster protest, in which participants would attend class and activities wearing a visible, but empty holster to illustrate that properly-licensed individuals must disarm when they are on campus. In fact, I am the alumnus alluded to in a separate Miami Student article who requested that Jeffry Smith organize an open carry walk on Miami's campus, based on the overall success of the walk I attended at the University of Cincinnati in 2014.

Sadly, Mr. Fackler employs a host of mischaracterizations to describe the event. He envisions people carrying signs and chanting into microphones. In reality, the event is, quite literally, a walk through campus and into uptown Oxford. We hope to engage students and members of the community in meaningful dialogue, whether by educating them of gun laws (how many students previously knew that openly carrying a gun through campus is legal?), answering their questions, or addressing concerns of anyone who may oppose firearms on a college campus.

Mr. Fackler follows this up with the pathos-ridden argument that carrying a concealed weapon runs contrary to the type of community that Miami tries to embody. The presence of a firearm (especially a concealed one) would not change the culture of a campus, anymore than the presence of a firearm changes the culture of a Starbucks, Whole Foods Market, or even the Texas Statehouse (where it's legal to carry a concealed handgun).

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are no laws prohibiting concealed handguns on college campuses in 23 states (including four of Ohio's neighbors -- Michigan is the exception), and eight other states expressly allow it. That makes Ohio part of an increasingly shrinking minority of states who explicitly ban concealed handguns on college campuses. Is the culture of Northern Kentucky University or Ball State University somehow different because licensed individuals can carry a concealed handgun there? Does Mr. Fackler realize that, even now, there may be law enforcement officers who take classes at Miami who carry a concealed handgun into class?

I would be in disbelief if Oxford is the only college host that strives to be "idyllic" (as Fackler describes Oxford). An internet search of "most beautiful college towns" yields several lists which include colleges located in states where it is legal to carry a concealed handgun. It is disheartening to see that the "Miami bubble" continues to flourish. If Mr. Fackler sought to "live, work, eat, play, love and learn" at a graduate school where openly carrying a firearm is impermissible, I am afraid Miami does not meet his criteria. In fact, there are not that many colleges and universities in the country that do.

Mr. Fackler relies heavily on some idea that Miami University is special, that it deserves to be treated as a safe haven. As an alumnus with many positive memories of his days of Miami, I agree that Miami is special, but should we as a culture be making decisions which impact the rights of others based on perception or fear? What Mr. Fackler fails to realize is that he is already immersed in a culture where carrying a firearm is a reality, whether it's at a movie theater, grocery store, shopping mall, or restaurant. As he tends to his errands off-campus each week, how much time does he invest worrying over who is armed and who isn't? I imagine very little, so why would that suddenly change if concealed carry were suddenly allowed at Miami.

A concealed carry license holder can carry into a 300-person movie theater but not a 300-person lecture hall, and the biggest reason Mr. Fackler has to want to keep it that way is because it would somehow shatter the perception that Miami is a sanctuary.

I encourage Mr. Fackler to attend the walk on April 30, observe and engage walk participants (including myself) in discussion. Hopefully, we'll be able to assuage any of his concerns.