Virginia Tech has the right to choose whether people are allowed to carry concealed weapons on its campus. Nearly five years after the April 16, 2007, campus shootings, there is still disagreement over which choice is more likely to prevent future campus violence.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League, sponsored by the Libertarians at Virginia Tech, will visit Tech today and demonstrate in front of Squires Student Center to advocate the concealed carry of weapons, which Tech currently prohibits along with all but one Virginia college — Blue Ridge Community College.
Students for Gun Free Schools will host a counter-movement called “School Walk-Out: Keep Guns off VT Campus,” according to the event’s Facebook page, in response to VCDL’s visit to Tech, making Thursday a key date for the debate surrounding concealed carry on campus in Virginia.
The protests come only one day after Liberty University announced a change in its firearms policy. The private univerity in Lynchburg, Va. now allows guests with concealed handgun permits to carry guns in their cars and on the grounds, but not in buildings. Faculty and students can also do so if they get permission for the Liberty University Police Department.
Concealed carry advocates argue that letting permit holders bring their guns on campus is not a safety hazard, and may actually create a safer environment.
“It’s important that we recognize the fact that these laws and regulations aren’t going to stop criminals,” said Eric Smith, president of the Libertarian Club and a junior chemical engineering major.
But despite the argument for concealed carry on campus, the university maintains that concealed carry of guns on campus should not be allowed.
“The university believes that guns don’t belong on campus, in our classes, or in our dormitories,” said Larry Hincker, university spokesman.
And for Colin Goddard, making sure that guns remain off campus is of utmost importance. Goddard was injured in the April 16 shootings. Goddard was sitting in French class when he was shot four times by Seung-Hui Cho that day.
He made a recovery and now promotes gun-free schools.
“It’s changed my life,” Goddard said. “I’ve devoted all my time and effort to helping educate Americans about what we do in this country with guns, what we don’t do, and what we should be doing.”
Although he said gun issues are important, Goddard said mental health issues should be a priority.
“We need to do background checks on people,” Goddard said. “This is bigger than a gun issue. Mental health issues should be at the center of this debate about what we’re doing about campus violence, but it’s not, and it’s a shame.”
And some students like Maggie McVicar, a sophomore communication major, agree with the university and those associated with April 16 that guns could disrupt the educational environment.
“Guns make me feel uncomfortable and uneasy,” McVicar said. She will be attending the Students for Gun Free Schools protest.