Should We Allow CCP Holders to Carry Guns on Campus? 11 Reservations of a ‘Gun Guy’
Before deciding to endorse a protective role for armed citizens on campus, school administrators must address these issues.
This article will not address the need for School Resource Officers (SROs) in public elementary and high schools, although I support the SRO mission fully. It will also not address whether faculty and staff CCP holders in these schools should be allowed to be armed while in their schools, although the arguments below are also germane to these individuals. Here are 11 reasons why administrators should have significant concerns about allowing CCP holders to carry their firearms on campus.
1. Military training often doesn’t apply to institutions of higher education. Most individuals who have received firearms training in the military, and even those who have been deployed to combat zones, have been trained on the M-16 carbine; not handguns. There are many capable operators in the military who are expert in handguns. However, the majority of veterans have been trained in the use of the rifle. Knowing how to deploy and shoot long guns does not necessarily translate into handgun proficiency. One could argue military bases implicitly recognize this gap in training by not allowing service personnel with CCPs to carry their weapons on the military reservation. They recognize the arguments that follow.
2. CCP qualification standards are not particularly demanding and don’t address key capabilities. In Northern Virginia, police recruits receive almost 70 hours of structured one-on-one training at the range, along with significant classroom training. These recruits fire 1,500-2,000 rounds under the watchful eye of an instructor to ensure they are ready and able to employ deadly force if ever required. During the course of their careers, officers are trained on “shoot/don’t shoot” scenarios, low light conditions and a host of situations they could encounter in a deadly force scenario.
However, it is possible to receive a CCP in Virginia without actually demonstrating live fire proficiency. Virginia requires CCP applicants to show evidence of a course or training and certification that one knows how to handle a gun safely. This certification can be a hunter safety course that does not have a range component. A military DD-214 separation/discharge notice can also serve as evidence of firearms proficiency. By virtue of having been in the military, as evidenced by the latter document, it is presumed an individual knows how to handle a firearm. However, as noted above, the holder may have neverlearned how to handle a handgun. Further, one can apply and receive a CCP using a DD-214 as a proficiency certification years after leaving the military, even if he or she hasn’t touched a firearm in the intervening period. Furthermore, other key skills required in an armed confrontation are not required and may not be assessed in many states. For instance, in Virginia, CCP applicants have no requirement to demonstrate weapon retention skills or proficiency in de-escalating a toxic situation in which a handgun has been drawn but not used; nor are they required to know about ballistics of different calibers. Some rounds may or may not penetrate sheet rock or wood, depending on the caliber, the type of bullet (i.e., hollow point or full metal jacket), the amount of power in the round, etc. Over-penetration of the shooter or rounds passing through walls could injure innocents. (In New Jersey and many states, citizens are not allowed to possess hollow point ammunition. However, full metal jacketed bullets are more likely to penetrate soft tissue and walls, and hit others in their path.)
3. There are no requirements to demonstrate continuing proficiency. In Virginia, at least, once granted a CCP, the holder needs to do nothing more to maintain it. It is renewed upon request every five years as long as the applicant has not violated the rules (e.g., been convicted of domestic violence or a felony). There is no recurring requirement to demonstrate proficiency. Even if there were such a requirement, it would have to go beyond safe gun handling and marksmanship, and demonstrate proficiency under realistic armed combat scenarios. (This statement pertains to Virginia. Other states may require periodic certification, but here too, the issue is whether the evaluation is limited to safe gun handling and
4. Even CCP holders who practice at a firearms range may not be well prepared to use a firearm in a life or death situation. The firearms range is my home away from home, and I have observed hundreds if not thousands of CCP holders training. I contend most firearms training is not realistic and does not prepare the shooter for armed conflict. First, most ranges don’t allow shooters to draw from holsters, both on the hip and concealed. Second, most ranges do not allow shooting and moving, an essential firearms combat skill. There are numerous tactical issues in the effective use of a handgun (e.g., shoot/don’t shoot; shooting from behind barricades), and the vast majority of CCP holders do not have the opportunity to acquire these skills. Third, just because someone spends hours at the range, there is no assurance he or she has honed good skills. It is possible that absent working with a competent trainer, one’s practice may only instill bad habits. Fourth, many concealed carry holders do not carry their weapons in hip holsters, especially in warmer months, due to the likelihood of revealing the presence of a weapon. Instead, weapons are carried in ankle holsters, pockets and pocketbooks, in-the-waistband holsters, backpacks, and other places. As noted above, ranges do not permit realistic drawing from these holsters, so most CCP holders will not be proficient in deploying their handgun in the mode they are likely to be carrying their weapon when the need for an armed response arises. In short, their time at the range notwithstanding, many CCP holders are not trained and proficient in deploying their handguns safely and effectively in a combat situation they are likely to encounter.
5. Firearms proficiency is a perishable skill. Assuming one has good firearms skills, that person still must practice no less than once every two weeks to sustain those skills. Additionally, as noted above, bad skills, practiced regularly, could make the CCP holder more dangerous.
6. Concealed weapons, by virtue of their smaller size, are inherently less accurate than larger weapons. Small handguns with shorter barrels lack the greater distance between front and back sights founds on larger weapons with longer barrels. Shorter sight radius translates to less accurate fire. Further, weapons designed to be concealed have heavier trigger pulls to prevent accidental/negligent discharges while being retrieved (often in the blind) from concealment. Heavier trigger pulls, by virtue of requiring greater force to actuate, introduce gun shake and are, as a result, less accurate.
7.The ability to hit targets at the range does not ensure tactical proficiency. Even police officers who train regularly on firearms have dismal hit rates (approximately 30 percent) in actual gunfights at distances of 15 feet and less. A partial explanation of this poor performance is the loss of fine motor skills necessary for trigger control and sight alignment in a combat situation. In these encounters, adrenalin is dumped into the bloodstream, peripheral vision decreases, auditory exclusion increases, etc. As problematic as these developments are for a trained officer, they will be more debilitating for a relatively untrained CCP holder and likely to increase the risk of gunshot injuries to innocent civilian bystanders. In other words, when involved in a deadly force situation, a shooter is least capable due to the adrenalin dump. One is forced to resort to one’s training, which may or may not be up to the task as noted above.
8. CCP holders may be subject to the Law of the Instrument. The “law” states: give a boy a hammer and one finds everything he encounters needs banging. There is no psychological screening of CCP holders, beyond not having been judged mentally incompetent by a qualified individual or agency. Furthermore, there is no assessment of judgment of CCP holders as a requirement for receiving the permit. There are documented instances in which CCP holders, feeling the urgency to defend others, deploy their weapons.
9. There are liabilities associated with CCPs. There are numerous laws governing concealed carry and significant liabilities associated therewith. The gun magazines are replete with articles about CCP holders who used deadly force and were then charged with serious crimes or faced expensive civil litigation. In many states, CCP applicants are not tested on these laws initially and certainly aren’t upon reapplication for their CCP. Further, schools would need to determine if permitting CCP holders to carry on campus makes them implied agents of the school and therefore exposes the institution to charges of liability resulting from a CCP holder’s misuse of his or her weapons and the wounding/death of innocents.
10. One of the greatest dangers revealed by force-on-force training is friendly fire. As noted in my observation of the church security team, arriving police officers, who may be in plain clothes, may be shot by an armed citizen who fails to recognize the “good guys.” Similarly, arriving officers, with adrenalin pumping, may not recognize the CCP holder as a citizen trying to help. That citizen, without a badge, is viewed as a potential suspect with a gun at a scene where shots have already been fired. The potential for injury or death from friendly fire is high.
11. Allowing CCP holders to attend classes would likely create undue administrative burdens for college police. Even the most assiduous CCP holder’s weapons may be visible, on occasion. A weapon may be seen in an ankle holster when a pant leg rises, someone may see a weapon in the cafeteria when a pocketbook is opened, etc. Today, especially in the environment when active shooter incidents are occurring and being reported, campus citizens would react fearfully upon seeing evidence of a concealed weapon. Police would be called, officers from neighboring jurisdictions would be called, buildings would be evacuated and classes would be disrupted. Upon finding someone with a CCP on campus, police would be required to confirm the person was a member of the college community and had a valid CCP.
Undoubtedly, there are CCP holders for whom these reservations are not valid, just like there are armed police officers who are only marginally proficient, despite holding state certification. However, before deciding to endorse a protective role for armed citizens on campus, school administrators must address the concerns identified above.
So, what’s a college to do, and what can be done to calm the legitimate fears of helpless campus residents? Recommendations, such as better training for campus officers to include joint training with local jurisdictions; building design; and outreach to campus citizens to inform them about active shooter response options are among solutions that merit an in-depth review.
Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.
This article was originally published in 2015. Photo iStock.
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