So, Concealed Carry Is Coming to Your Campus. Now What?

If your organization has chosen or been forced to allow concealed carry on campus, the following practices will reduce this policy’s potential pitfalls.

So, Concealed Carry Is Coming to Your Campus. Now What?

Lieutenant John Weinstein of the Northern Virginia Community College Police Department discusses four goals your campus should aim for if concealed carry is implemented.

Avoid Collateral Damage of Concealed Carry on Campus

In the idealized scenario, an armed citizen comes upon an active shooter, gets the drop on him, and quickly ends a potentially deadly situation. In the real world, which differs substantially from the good guy vs. bad guy police shows on TV, the scenario is more complicated and could easily lead to disaster.

A well-intentioned citizen could be killed or wounded by the responding police. He could shoot at and miss the bad guy and hit an innocent bystander. He could hit the shooter and his round pass through the shooter and kill an innocent subsequently struck by the round. He could lose control of his weapon and provide the shooter with additional firepower.

The potential scenarios where things could go wrong are numerous. There is a lot to know, and most armed citizens are unaware of the nature of combat, their practice time at the range notwithstanding.

A big part of the ability to avoid collateral damage is centered around the actual role of an armed citizen in society. As noted, I am a huge supporter of the Second Amendment. I believe every citizen has the responsibility to protect himself and his family, and in so doing, requires the necessary tools. However, there is a huge chasm between protecting one’s loved ones and becoming a protector of society at large.

The training, responsibilities and liabilities of the latter far exceed the former. CCP holders who consider their permit as authorization to act as law enforcement officers lack the wherewithal to perform this task and do so at the risk of disastrous consequences that serve no one well; not themselves, the school or society.

Therefore, as I argued earlier, I have serious reservations about the efficacy of a CCP holder taking on the responsibility for protecting his or her school.

That said, here are some things CCP holders should know to reduce the likelihood of bad consequences should they become involved in an active shooter incident or an armed confrontation.

  • Know when not to carry a concealed weapon. There is an axiom among CCP holders that states if one is going to carry a concealed weapon, then one should always carry a concealed weapon. However, people under the influence of significant stress in the workplace or in the home may lack the focus and clear thinking required for the safe and effective use of lethal force. Also, certain medications, including over-the-counter drugs, can affect judgment, perception and aim and, therefore, mitigate against carrying a weapon. These two perspectives, the imperative to carry all the time vs. not carrying under certain circumstances must be reconciled by the CCP holder, who is advised to err on the side of caution when he or she could be emotionally or medically impaired.

4 Basic Rules of Firearms Safety

1. Handle all firearms as if they were loaded.
2. Always keep the firearm pointed in a safe direction.
3. Keep your finger outside of the firearm’s trigger guard and off the trigger until you have aligned the firearm’s sights on a safe target and you have made the decision to fire.
4. Before firing, be sure of your target and what’s behind it.

  • Internalize and practice the “4 Basic Rules of Firearms Safety” (see sidebar). Watch most cop shows and you will see an actor who’s supposedly an “officer” running or stalking a bad guy with his finger on the trigger. Doing this ensures a discharge in the event of a surprise, a trip, or even a cough or hiccup. Similarly, certain calibers, certain loads, barrel length, bullet profile (e.g., full metal jacket vs. hollow point, vs. jacketed hollow point), bullet frangibility, the size of the bad guy, where a bullet strikes him and what he is wearing are among the many factors that determine whether a bullet passes through a target and hits an innocent directly behind him or her. Further complicating the issue is the composition of the walls; cinderblock or sheetrock, for instance, will affect whether a round can penetrate a wall and possibly hit citizens seeking refuge on the other side. People who assume the heavy burden of carrying a firearm need to know the ballistic performance of the ammunition they carry, its maximum and effective ranges, its performance in gelatin tests that approximate its ability to penetrate a person and many other technical matters. This is a far cry from being able to hit a bull’s eye without stress and not having to worry about what is behind a paper target.
  • Carry the largest gun you can comfortably and effectively conceal. Small guns, which are easily concealed, have shorter barrels and therefore shorter distances between front and rear sights. This makes them inherently less accurate than larger guns with longer sight pictures. Also, smaller guns tend to have stiffer triggers and greater recoil than larger guns, making the former more difficult to shoot accurately and taking a longer time to control recoil and get back on target.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Firearms proficiency is extremely perishable. If one doesn’t practice every one to two weeks, the speed of one’s draw and accuracy decline precipitously. Further, meaningful practice involves far more than hitting a paper bull’s eye or steel plate consistently. Effective practice must include combat draws from a holster (though many ranges do not permit these due to safety concerns), shooting and moving, shooting in low- or no-light conditions, combat and tactical reloads, etc. State-mandated CCP requirements, criteria and qualifying exams come nowhere close to demanding and evaluating these abilities.
  • Understand the physiology of shooting in combat situations. When someone is in dire and frightening circumstances, the body undergoes changes due to the adrenaline dump that occurs. Blood shifts from the body’s extremities to its core; heart and respiration rates increase; peripheral vision decreases; and auditory exclusion results. As a result, the hands and body shake, fine motor skills (needed to manipulate a trigger for accuracy) decline, visual acuity (i.e., necessary for proper sight alignment) declines and a person becomes less aware of anything not directly in front of him or her. In short, just when a CCP holder is undertaking the most momentous course of action imaginable, his or her abilities to execute the requirements of handgun proficiency disappear in the absence of massive and regular training under realistic conditions. This is one reason why the average hit rate by police officers from only 15 feet away from a person in a gunfight is only about 30 percent. Another physiological consideration is what happens to a suspect who is shot. One can sustain a lethal hit, in the heart for instance, and still fire rounds for over a minute before exsanguination takes effect. There are numerous police reports of people continuing to fight and return fire after being hit 10, 15 and even 20 times. Most CCP holders do not carry enough spare magazines to sustain this type of gunfight.
  • A CCP holder needs more than a gun. In addition to more magazines (or speed loaders/speed strips for the old timers carrying revolvers) suggested above, a CCP holder might need to shoot in low light situations, since turning off lights is one of the protocols for lockdown and hiding. Few CCP holders carry flashlights. Further, most do not carry handcuffs, let alone know how to cuff someone safely, quickly and properly. But what happens if a CCP holder is able to disable a shooter or get him or her to surrender? One cannot assume all shooters will be dead, especially in light of the factors discussed above. In short, serious CCP holders should be carrying lots of ammunition, a flashlight and handcuffs, and know how to employ them effectively.

Reduce Liability Potential of Allowing Guns on Campus

Good intentions notwithstanding, death or injury to an innocent victim or the CCP holder due to mistaken identity will result in a boatload of lawsuits directed at individual officers, the department, the school, the person or organization responsible for training/certifying the CCP holder and many other targets for a lawsuit.

There is no way one can insulate a department or school from civil suits, but there are some steps that might provide a modicum of protection from lawsuits should your campus allow guns on campus:

  1. Schools need to provide regular active incident response training to faculty, students and staff, as well as regular and realistic tactical training to campus officers, whether armed or unarmed. Invitations should be extended to local agencies to observe and, preferably, participate in these training exercises so they become familiar with the layout of the school and the equipment and tactics of its officers. Training the campus community is critically important because it empowers them to protect themselves and also serves as a force multiplier for responders (i.e., leaving parcels in classrooms speeds the arrival of responders who don’t have to check them). However, telling people to lockdown or to “run, hide, fight” will not be effective if we are not telling people specifically how to run, how to hide and how to fight and if we are not telling someone how to decide the most appropriate survival strategy for them (i.e., depends on the person, the threat and the location of the threat).
  2. As decisions are made to allow CCP holders to bring weapons onto campus, schools need to include guidance on safe carry in school handbooks and train personnel on some of the complex issues identified herein.
  3. Schools need to educate CCP holders on these same issues. Of course, one cannot mandate attendance at these training sessions, which could be taught by campus police or local officers on a quarterly/semester basis. Additionally, campus officials can’t possibly know what percentage of campus CCP holders attended. However, prominently advertising, offering this training, and sharing these critical concerns, limitations and dangers on a regular basis could limit a school’s liability if innocents are injured. A page or two of considerations distributed to CCP holders as a guide to their CCP holders could more effectively protect them, protect campus citizens and protect the school from liability suits.

You can see the myriad potential dangers that concealed weapons carry on campus, irrespective of the assurances of advocates, their laudable intentions and their reliance on the Second Amendment. Still, whether concealed weapons should be permitted on school grounds is becoming increasingly moot. Responsible campus leaders must be prepared to address the complicated issues surrounding concealed carry on campus.

Lt. John M. Weinstein is commander of strategic planning and outreach for the Northern Virginia Community College Police Department. He can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed by guest contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author


Dr. and Lt. John Weinstein retired as a senior police commander at one of the country’s largest institutions of higher education where, in addition to other responsibilities, he directed officer and college-wide active incident response training and community outreach. He is a popular national and international speaker and is widely published on many institutional and municipal law enforcement matters. Weinstein also consults with Dusseau-Solutions on active incident and all-hazard topics involving schools, churches, businesses and other public venues.

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

10 responses to “So, Concealed Carry Is Coming to Your Campus. Now What?”

  1. Blade says:

    And then there were many of us who carried during throughout our college years regardless.

  2. The author is simply wrong in many of his assumptions about reality.

    CCW permit holders are extremely law abiding. Moreso than police officers, on average, by significant amounts.

    Armed citizens have stopped numerous active shooter situations. They have not stopped them on campus, because they have been forbidden to have their weapons on campus. (extremely law abiding, remember?)

    Police often arrive at active shooter situations after they are all over. You cannot count of first responders getting there fast enough.

    Armed citizens have a *better* hit to miss ratio than police do, with what limited data we have. The reason is obvious. They are on the scene, involved in the situation. The attacker has identified themselves by their actions.

    Here is a list of mass killings stopped by armed citizens:

  3. Barry Hirsh says:

    Nothing trumps my right to have the means of defending myself immediately on my person, wherever I happen to be.

    And nothing addresses minimizing the carnage an active school shooter can wreak except guns immediately present to stop him/her.

    Cops can’t get there before a lot of kids are shot. That’s just a plain fact.

    So take your misgivings, all due respect, and… well, you know.

  4. Rich says:

    Gun Free Zones are killing zones..
    Mindless gun-free zones are what mass shootings have in common. They are killing zones, free from good guys with guns. That’s why the Aurora movie theater killer chose the more distant theater where guns were not allowed and thus where he wouldn’t have to worry about his plan being foiled.

  5. Lawrence Lewis says:

    We have had CC on campus at my university here in Texas for a couple of years now with no incidents. We have had some faculty members afraid to meet a student because they might be a CCP holder and have requested a police stand by during a meeting,however those request are not common. Firearms are only allowed in dorms that have separate sleeping spaces and safes to lock up the firearm when not being carried. They are not allowed in several facilities on campus pursuant to university OP 30.06 including athletic events. The key is to educate the campus community on the law and university policy.

  6. Jim Donbavand says:

    The article appears to be half useful information and half perpetuating the argument that college campuses are special and should be exempted from the 2nd Amendment. A dangerous concept – what other laws should schools be allowed to ignore. The First Amendment?
    If you were in a large school, in a classroom, lecture hall or lab and you heard gunfire – would you rather:
    A) have a pistol – which you legally posses, or
    B) have a can of tomato soup ?
    You laugh – there have been Professional Safety Consultants who have told schools to tell their K-12 students to carry a can of soup to throw at a gunman if he bursts into their classroom.
    Suggesting a licensed CCH holder is less than diligent if (s)he does not train every other week and carry spare ammo, handcuffs and a flashlight – is disingenuous.

  7. David says:

    Many well said responses. The author is wrong. He does not support the second amendment.

  8. Penrod says:

    I’m sorry to say that, based on his long list of objections -all of which apply to anyone carrying a weapon anywhere- I agree with you.

    Yes, every one of the objections is a legitimate ‘could be’ or ‘it stands to reason’ objection, but given the many years of widespread shall issue permit states and constitutional carry states, none of the objections has proven out in real life.

    As for armed civilians on scene delaying ‘first responders’, it’s pretty clear that the armed civilian on scene is the actual first responder, usually by at least a couple minutes. If innocent people are getting shot at the rate of five or six per minute, stopping the murderer in the first thirty seconds saves a lot of injured.

  9. You make a valid point that it could be much more difficult to re-holster a weapon under stress. That is something that I would like to train and overcome when I get my concealed carry permit recertified. It would make me more prepared in case anything happened or there was a mix-up.

  10. John says:

    I’m going to come right out and say it: Whoever edited this, and maybe the author along with them, is a complete idiot when it comes to guns.
    That Beretta 92 IS NOT a 1911 clone. The photo doesn’t show much background such as whether they’re in a range, however, with that particular weapon you NEVER leave the hammer cocked unless you are ON TARGET. Having the safety off with that 92 series is correct, hammer cocked is wrong, again it’s not a 1911 (and if it were, the safety would be ON).
    Ordinarily it would be irrelevant what photos are posted, but the author here is absolutely crowing about gun safety, so he, she, or it needs to ensure safety is displayed lest they come across as someone who merely wants to disarm private citizens “for their own good.”
    This information comes from extensive and frequent firearms training with the M9 that’s carried daily and including online, classroom, firing line, and force on force.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety HQ