A handful of students participated in a weeklong protest to advocate for their right to carry a firearm on the John Brown University campus last week. The nationwide peaceful protest, initiated by the non-partisan organization Students for Concealed Carry (SCC), consisted of students wearing empty holsters around campuses in order to create discussion about gun rights.
According to Josh Hawkins, Arkansas State Director for SCC and senior business administration major at JBU, the protest is to, “visibly display the disarmament of students and faculty on campus.”
Hawkins said the primary purpose of the protest was to create a discussion and raise awareness. There are several questions that come up when students are allowed to carry firearms on campus.
“Most people worry about storage of a gun on campus,” Hawkins said. “What do you do about storage in a dorm? That’s a legitimate discussion.”
He also addressed the concerns of an active shooter on campus, explaining the pros and cons.
“Now, realistically, an active shooter scenario is statistically improbable,” Hawkins said, “but it could happen. Now, we don’t encourage vigilantism. You should leave that up to law enforcement and professionals.”
“This protest isn’t specifically aimed at getting that right to carry just for students,” Hawkins added, “It’s really for all licensed carriers.”
The protest also raised concerns about the University’s firearm policy for faculty and staff, including campus safety officers. Currently, the only campus safety officer with a firearm is director Scott Wanzer.
Wanzer explained that the University’s main concern is making sure people are qualified to carry a firearm. “The conversation is not about guns on campus, but about qualification,” he said.
In addition to demonstrating a certain level of trust, responsibility and accountability, the University would want individuals to have several more hours of training than would be mandated by Arkansas House Bill 1077, which is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Although a request to arm another campus safety officer was made, the request was denied. However, Wanzer said they would make another request next year. Arming another campus safety officer is not only a safety issue, but also a budget question for the University, Wanzer said, since requiring an officer to carry a firearm would increase his or her responsibility and therefore increase salary.
“I appreciate the open conversation,” Wanzer said about the protest and speaking with Hawkins. “There’s no agenda and it’s a friendly conversation.”
Hawkins is currently seeking approval to form a Students for Concealed Carry Club at JBU. “While our main interest is concealed carry,” he said, “our club could appeal to many other interests: general firearm enthusiasts, sport shooters, hunters.”
The club would not only create discussions about firearms, but also try to work with local law enforcement and state legislators to make differences in legislation.
“Even if we can’t get students to carry, it would be beneficial to this campus to expand who can carry within trained faculty and staff,” Hawkins said. “Having at least one armed officer around at any given moment is good and beneficial to the institution.”