As the nation deals with the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut mass shooting tragedy, gun control legislation is the subject of great controversy, and gun legislation pertaining to schools is no different. Five states have enacted laws that allow students to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. The nature of these laws illustrates the necessity of serious gun control at the federal level.
In March of 2012, the Colorado Supreme Court overturned a University of Colorado weapons ban. The decision claimed that the university violated the state Concealed Carry Act, in that gun permit-holders can carry arms in all public places besides federal property and elementary schools. The court ruling took after similar action in Oregon, which also denies college campuses the ability to ban concealed weapons on campuses.
Wisconsin and Mississippi have redefined their gun laws, allowing firearms in a plethora of different public places. The University of Wisconsin has allowed guns on its campus grounds, but weapons cannot enter classrooms or stadiums. Mississippi has even permitted gun permit-holders to bring their weapons into bars. Guns and alcohol: what could possibly go wrong?
Utah seems to be the most lax in its guns in schools laws, as state law allows all public universities to permit guns to enter their campuses. These laws are justified on Second Amendment grounds. However, lines need to be drawn somewhere. Recall the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, which resulted in the biggest killing spree in U.S history when a gunman killed 32 people. While the majority of gun carriers are not violent, and have the intention to self-protect, premeditated shootings are also occurring by licensed permit-holders. It is time for Washington to intervene, and implement federal statutes that will better protect the safety of American colleges and universities.
The federal government has been unsuccessful in attempts to regulate guns in public schools. In United States vs. Lopez (1995), the Supreme Court utilized strict interpretation of the interstate commerce clause. In 1992 Alfonso Lopez Jr., a high school senior in San Antonio, Texas carried a concealed weapon on his school's campus. He was charged with a federal crime — violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. As the legislation’s name suggests, the law made it illegal to have a firearm in an area designated as a gun-free school zone . Lopez’s attorneys argued that Congress lacked the constitutional authority to invoke the Interstate Commerce Clause in the Constitution because Lopez's actions did not significantly affect interstate commerce.
The high court agreed, and decided that they Congress cannot invoke such use broad authority regarding the Interstate Commerce Clause. However, this needs to change, and federal reform is an absolute necessity. A uniform should be proposed and enacted to ensure better safety. There is significant disparity in legislation between state gun control laws, and Washington needs to make better efforts to eliminate them.