State politicians and community members met Monday to discuss concealed carry on UW System schools’ campuses, with a bill allowing for so-called campus carry potentially looming next year.
At times, the panel became very tense as state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum—the only Republican panelist present—disagreed with state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, College Democrats Chair Augie McGinnity-Wake, UW Madison professor Lisa Cooper and Samara Safarik from the group Moms Who Demand Action.
The discussion revolved around legislation Kremer introduced last session that would allow concealed carry on campus and in campus buildings. Currently, UW-Madison does allow concealed carry on campus, but not inside campus buildings.
Kremer said this is an issue because students can carry guns outside on their way to campus buildings, but then have no place to put them when they enter the building. He argues students might face violence within classrooms that they would then be unable to protect themselves against.
Taylor countered that every UW System police chief signed a letter in opposition to the legislation of concealed carry on campus. She also questioned why citizens should trust potentially untrained individuals to concealed carry and use their guns if necessary.
“Police officers train and train to be accurate with guns. And guess what? They’re still not that accurate,” Taylor said. “Can you imagine someone who’s not trained to shoot a gun trying to do that?”
Kremer explained his reasoning for supporting concealed carry, citing UW-Milwaukee as an example because he’s focused his research on that campus.
“We have very safe campuses, but that’s not the problem. The issue is the crime around the campuses,” Kremer said.
He added that students are particularly vulnerable while they walk to and from class or are on the streets surrounding campus. He said criminals know these students are likely to be unarmed and therefore more vulnerable.
Cooper disagreed with Kremer.
“I don't think you balance the dangers of street crime around a campus by making campuses less safe,” Cooper said.
McGinnity-Wake pointed out an area where all panelists agreed—that those who have a concealed carry license should undergo proper training and background checks before earning the license.
One student questioned the issue of keeping guns in dorm rooms, which are known for being vulnerable to theft. Kremer addressed this issue by saying there are alternatives to rooming with someone who concealed carries and safe measures for students who concealed carry to protect their guns.
“First of all, you have the option of not rooming with anyone who’s a concealed carry holder,” Kremer said. “They have biometric safes, safes that attach into the walls. That’s how they remedy that situation.”
Safarik countered that the cost of implementing campus concealed carry would be high. Rates of insurance would increase, she argued, along with security measures that would increase costs for colleges. Safarik also talked about the safety inadequacies of allowing guns into dorms.
“Think about an accidental discharge going through those paper-thin walls of a dorm,” Safarik said.
Kremer said both parties are working to make college campuses safer but argued that college students who are of legal concealed carry age should have the same rights as those who are the same age but not in college.
“I feel we need to be proactive for a bill like this where we provide protection and prevent crime around our college campuses,” he said.
Kremer told The Daily Cardinal last week that he plans on reintroducing a campus carry bill next session, although he said it may not be rolled out immediately at the beginning of the next legislative session in January.