Mass Shootings, Heroic Actors, and the Competitive Construction of Concealed Firearms on University Campuses

Friday, 20 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Joseph DEANGELIS, University of Idaho, USA
Brian WOLF, University of Idaho, USA
Terressa BENZ, Oakland University, USA
The United States is unique among developed countries in its cultural valorization of firearms ownership as a fundamental right. While most other Western countries have sought to restrict gun ownership and the carrying of firearms, there has been a significant legislative momentum in the United States toward the liberalization of gun laws. Within that larger trend, there has been a movement toward allowing individuals to carry concealed firearms in previously protected spaces, including hospitals, churches, and university campuses. The state of Idaho, for example, has been at the forefront of this trend. In 2014 the state legislature passed SB 1254, a law which allowed licensed individuals to begin carrying carry concealed firearms on the campuses of state colleges and universities. Not surprisingly, there has been robust public debate over the expansion of concealed carry. On the one hand, supporters of these new laws have argued that allowing individuals to carry firearms on campus will deter potential mass shooters, terrorists and enhance the security of students, faculty, and staff. Those who oppose campus carry have contended that universities have low crime rates and that allowing firearms to be carried on campus will increase the number of accidental discharges, suicides, and violent crimes. Given these trends, this paper traces out the discursive struggle over firearms on college campuses in the state of Idaho. By conducting a qualitative thematic analysis of newspaper articles, social media posts, and transcripts of legislative debates, this paper traces the evolution of the campus carry debate. Particular attention is paid to how supporters of campus carry constructed the role the concealed firearms could play in deterring and thwarting mass shootings and terrorist attacks on U.S. college campuses.