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NMU Concealed Weapons Survey Conducted

High-profile shootings at Virginia Tech, Northern Illinois University and elsewhere prompted some legislators to propose revisions to concealed pistol laws, allowing properly registered firearms to be carried on campus. The national organization Students for Concealed Carry also staged empty holster protests, including one at NMU, against state laws and school policies that “that disarm law-abiding citizens allowed to carry concealed pistols in other locations” by declaring universities gun-free zones.  

In the wake of these events, Greg Warchol (Criminal Justice) and Dale Kapla (Academic Affairs) completed a three-phase survey of attitudes about firearms on campus. They polled NMU criminal justice majors specifically before expanding to the rest of the student body and faculty.  

“Despite the series of university shootings and efforts to strike down exceptions in the law in Michigan and other states—most of which never went anywhere—there was not much research conducted on student and faculty opinions toward allowing concealed pistols on campus,” said Warchol. “We decided to explore that to see whether they thought concealed firearms could effectively deter crime and be used for self-defense.”

All three survey groups were against allowing guns on campus, but the level of opposition varied. Ninety percent of the 245 faculty respondents were opposed. The student body registered 70 percent and criminal justice students about 60 percent opposed. Kapla said the latter might be attributed to the fact those who owned or used guns had significantly higher levels of support for concealed pistols on campus. Students based their opposition on the increased potential for violence and accidents, along with questions about whether students are mature enough to legally carry a firearm.

“I thought it was odd that we didn’t see clear political divisions,” said Kapla, left. “Of those who said they fell on the conservative end of the political spectrum, two-thirds were still opposed. I expected more favorability among conservatives. With the faculty, we found 8 percent have a concealed pistol license, 42 percent would refuse to teach if they knew a student in their class was carrying a firearm, 78 percent would feel less safe in a class with an armed student and 22 percent at one time or another experienced fear of crime on NMU’s campus. We surveyed adjuncts, tenured and untenured faculty.”

The survey addressed the following with the respondents: demographic and firearm experience characteristics; past criminal victimization, fear of crime and confidence in campus police; political ideology related to favorability; and potential consequences of concealed carry on campus.

“More attention is being paid to this subject since we began our study,” Warchol said. “At a conference I was at, there were two other papers on fear of crime on other college campuses. When you have major events, people start looking into it. There are a lot of directions we could go with this research. Northern’s a rural university and the crime rates on campus and in the city are below average. That limits the ability to generalize these results to other locations. It might be interesting to do a similar survey at an urban school and compare the results.”