Last year, Sen. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, filed Senate Bill 97, which would allow students with permits to carry guns on public university campuses in the state.
Vanest, president of Students for Concealed Carry at IU, said she has wanted to be a gun owner since she was 16.
Students for Concealed Carry aims to promote education and give students the right to protect themselves. Vanest said a specific kind of gun owner can pose a threat to the community, but not all of them.
“I usually tell them that people who follow rules about guns aren’t the ones who are dangerous,” Vanest said.
The debate about gun possession and concealed carry permits has become particularly heated following the December elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
Gary Butcher, owner of Bloomington’s Leathers Limited Firearms, said he noticed a significant increase in gun sales following the events in Newtown. Fear is driving customers to seek out assault weapons to protect themselves.
“Now they’re in fear they’re not going to get assault weapons — people who have never had guns,” Butcher said.
Butcher also said the many college students he deals with are often seeking handguns. Most students purchase these handguns for self-protection, as well as recreation.
The implications and responsibility of being a gun owner, however, has Butcher and others worried.
“Carrying is a really big responsibility,” Vanest said. “It effectively changes your lifestyle.”
Gun owners run through the list of potentials when they carry: what to do if the gun needs to be drawn and how to make sure those nearby are safe from the weapon.
“People who carry really hope they don’t need it,” Vanest said.
Vanest said a certain mental state is required of gun carriers. Recognition of the consequences of shooting is vital knowledge for carriers, Vanest said.
“If you shoot someone, even if it’s in self-defense, there are serious consequences,” Vanest said.
However, many argue arming students to fight violence would not curb violence itself.
Mark Land, IU associate vice president for university communications, said no evidence suggests gun violence is an issue on campuses. In addition, Land said IU Police Department is well-trained and adequately prepared to keep the University safe in all situations.
The Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct strictly prohibits the possession of any weapon or potential weapon on any University property.
It further prohibits the sale of firearms from University property and the intentional possession of an article that could be a potential weapon.
State Sen. Mark Stoops, D-Bloomington, said the solution to a gun threat is not arming more people. Instead, Stoops said he wants to reduce the number of guns that are placed in the wrong hands and that the threat could be alleviated through more stringent background checks.
The restriction of purchasing automatic weapons and assault rifles could also help curb the threat of violence.
“I don’t think anyone is interested in O.K. Corral shootouts on campus,” Stoops said. Aaron Dy, IU junior and IU College Democrats president, echoed Stoops’ sentiments.
“I think people that have been on a college campus would know you don’t want a bunch of concealed weapons going on in the mix of what happens on a college campus,” Dy said.
He said, especially on a large campus like IU, guns can pose even more of a threat.
“Any shot fired is going to hit someone,” Dy said. “You have 40,000 students. You’re likely to have accidents.”
The bill’s passage remains uncertain and has been relegated to the Senate rules committee where it awaits a decision on its future.
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