Campus Concealed Carry Laws and Colleges

Campus Concealed Carry & Safe Schools

Several states recently passed legislation related to campus concealed carry. In one form or another, these laws allow students and campus employees with a concealed firearm permit to carry a gun on campus. These laws caused considerable concern among some. There are questions about good Samaritan laws and how those would apply. There are dire predictions about tragic events that would occur, and equally dire predictions about what would happen if we not allow concealed carry on campuses. Quite simply, the predicted chaos and carnage has not occurred.

I generally take a middle-of-the-road stance on this highly emotional topic for some very pragmatic reasons. On one hand, there have been several campus shootings that have been stopped by citizens with guns: a high school dance shooting in Edenborough, Pennsylvania, a potential shooting at a university sorority dance Macon, Georgia, and the high school shooting in Pearl, Mississippi, to name a few. At the same time, I am not convinced that campus concealed carry would impact the overall numbers of shootings and victims that take place each year in educational facilities.

A Shift in Public Thinking on Campus Concealed Carry

The pressure to allow concealed carry will increase significantly if we continue to see mass casualty attacks with firearms and edged weapons by terrorists. This will be even more true if there are any more attacks on K12 and higher education targets. Educators in other countries like Israel, Thailand and Kenya are allowed to carry firearms as a response to school terrorism. We may see this evolve into a bigger discussion in the United States as well.

Focusing on active shooter incidents can leave us unprepared for everyday events, particularly when it comes to campus concealed carry as a preparedness tactic.

Focusing on active shooter incidents can leave us unprepared for everyday events, particularly when it comes to campus concealed carry as a preparedness tactic.

My primary concern a bit different than those often highlighted in media stories. I am concerned about the focus on extremely rare events like active shooter and active killer incidents. These types of risks are easy to focus on because they are so tragic when they do occur. I worry that people who carry a gun will train with a focus on neutralizing an active shooter. Their mental space is thus focused on an event that is statistically unlikely.

The More Likely Scenario

In reality, school staff will probably face a split-second use of force decision for a more mundane event. An intoxicated person waving a knife or an act of interpersonal violence will happen much more frequently. In schools, an active shooter situation is statistically less likely than many other situations that might prompt a use of force. Anyone who carries a gun for self-defense should be fully prepared to make the decision to take a human life – and not just in extreme situations.

Additional information on Campus Concealed Carry:

School Violence in Trinidad

Trinidad school Violence

News headlines portray an epidemic of school violence in Trinidad. As with American media, alarmist and frightening reporting can make it difficult to determine the real extent of the problem of school violence. Safe Havens has been asked to help develop practical solutions to address school violence in Trinidad.

BUntitled CUntitled DUntitledI have the honor to present at a national conference on school violence in Trinidad this March.  The conference is being held in response to incidents of school violence in the small Caribbean nation.  In newspaper covers and television news stories provided by my client for background on the topic, I noted repeated references to an “epidemic” of school violence and headlines regarding gang activity in schools.  While the news stories detail recent school homicides, the focus of the reporting appears to center on a large number of very serious fights among groups of students as well as increasing gang activity in schools.  A number of these incidents involve groups of students who gang up and beat individual students severely.  There has been at least one similar type of attack on a school teacher.  Viral videos of these types of attacks have become increasingly more graphic, popular and apparently more frequent.

High Homicide Rate affects School Violence

With a per capita murder rate of 28.3 per hundred residents, Trinidad has been experiencing a stout
homicide rate in recent years.   Criminal gangs have often had no difficulty in obtaining semi-automatic
and even fully automatic weapons.  Special police units equipped with heavy body armor and
sub-machine guns patrol high crime areas and have had numerous gunfights with gang members.  It
should not be surprising that school violence would be an issue in schools serving these communities.
For contrast, the U.S. homicide rate typically runs between three and four victims  per hundred
thousand.

Contrast with schools in the U.S.

Most of the topics of interest to attendees parallel issues with school violence in the United States.  I will be addressing areas such as preventing school weapons assaults, effective school resource officer programs, student threat evaluation, techniques to prevent fights in schools, bullying prevention, student supervision practices, and effective emergency preparedness measures for school violence.  I have found past engagements in other countries to be an excellent learning opportunity.  Our analysts have learned valuable lessons working in Canada, Mexico, Honduras, Rwanda, Bolivia, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, France, Switzerland, Vietnam, the U.K. and other countries.  I am sure this experience will be no exception.

Travel, learn and share

I look forward to my visit to Trinidad and will post another blog to share what I learn during the trip.   When I was originally invited to present for the conference, I had to decline due to a previously scheduled trip to Argentina the same week.  I was very disappointed that I would not be able to present because my schedule was in conflict.  The conference organizers were willing to move the conference date so I could present.  I am grateful for their efforts to accommodate my schedule and will do my best to make their efforts worthwhile.  I also look forward to the challenges of trying to come up with success strategies to help make schools in Trinidad safer.  Every time we have the opportunity to work in another region of the world, we learn and gain a new perspective.  I feel truly blessed to have this opportunity to learn and to share a different perspective on school violence.

School Safety Lawsuits – Exhibit A

This type of photo can serve as “exhibit A” in school safety litigation.  This photo was taken during a school safety assessment and depicts a security gate that was left unlocked and open.  The primary reason for this security gate is to prevent unauthorized people from climbing the tower and falling to their death.  Evidence that a safety feature was not utilized, a policy was not followed or video footage of staff ignoring safety precautions can be among the most powerful evidence in a school safety lawsuit.

This type of photo can serve as “exhibit A” in school safety litigation. This photo was taken during a school safety assessment and depicts a security gate that was left unlocked and open. The primary reason for this security gate is to prevent unauthorized people from climbing the tower and falling to their death. Evidence that a safety feature was not utilized, a policy was not followed or video footage of staff ignoring safety precautions can be among the most powerful evidence in a school safety lawsuit.

 

Powerful Evidence in School Safety Lawsuits

A multi-million dollar school safety lawsuit against a security company was recently dismissed by a federal court judge.  The case involved an accident where a student fell four stories in a large open stairwell during a school dance.  I reviewed the case for defense counsel and determined that school officials had failed to secure a series of expensive electronic safety gates that had been installed to prevent this exact type of event.  There were also a series of tragic and blatant safety errors on the part of several school administrators.  Instead of suing the people who had failed to take reasonable measures to prevent the tragedy, plaintiff’s counsel attempted to sue the contract security company.  While the district enjoys qualified immunity, the security company did not and would have appeared to be an easier target. 

Don’t depend on luck for school safety

In effect, the plaintiff’s attorney had sued the wrong defendant.  He did not properly evaluate the circumstances of the case, missing critical facts such as the failure of school administrators to lock the safety gates.  Fortunately for the school district, by the time the judge reviewed my report and dismissed the suit, the statute of limitations had passed.  The attorney could not file what would have been a much more solid lawsuit against the school district.  I would not suggest school officials rely on attorneys making such errors.  The attorney who made this mistake was actually a highly competent personal injury attorney not prone to such errors in judgment.  School officials were blessed with unusual luck in this case.

A better approach

A better approach is to develop a school culture where people do what they are supposed to do to enhance school safety.  Following proper safety precautions makes schools safer while reducing liability exposure.  This approach reduces the chances of successful school safety lawsuits.  More importantly, it makes schools safer and more effective.  While no safety system will be perfect, efforts to reduce these types of oversights can be worthwhile.  Being alert to safety devices that are not being properly utilized can keep you out of court while preventing serious injury and death.