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Editorial: Dangers Gun Violence Poses to USD

Students and employees of colleges deserve a safe environment to learn and work. It’s the job of the university, state and federal government to ensure people feel safe to attend college. Gun violence and mere exposure to gun violence can lead to poor academic performance, emotional stress and obvious physical danger. The safety of college campuses in the U.S. needs to become more of a priority.

Gun violence at colleges has spiked to a disturbing level in recent years. In a report by the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, Ashley Cannon found that during 2001-02 to 2005-06 academic years there were 40 recorded shooting incidents on or near college campuses. By the 2011-12 to 2015-16 academic years the number of incidents increased to 101. The number of casualties increased by 241% when comparing the same years.

It is not just mass shootings people need to be worried about: college students drink and it is common knowledge that alcohol use is associated with increased aggression, so it can be dangerous to have guns on campuses. Mental illness is another significant problem among students, rates of suicidal ideations have risen in past years. With access to firearms increasing the risk of dying by suicide, the danger of allowing guns on campus is clear.

But what are ways the government can actually do something to improve campus safety? 

The first thing they can do is make clear rules or regulations about gun safety and put it in an easy to find location. The Clery Act requires universities to describe in their reports if they have sworn officers and if they make arrests. There is nothing about their use of weapons. A simple addition to be added is to require the reporting of all shooting incidents on college campuses and incidents involving students near campuses. 

There is always the option for Congress to ban guns from college campuses. Most institutions already have policies that prohibit possessing firearms on campus, but more can be done. Already, federal laws mostly prohibit carrying guns onto the grounds of K-12 schools. The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 bans guns on public and private K-12 properties (except when carried by law enforcement or during a school-approved program). 

The only loophole is if people have licenses to carry in a state that does not prohibit guns on campuses. South Dakota residents and nonresidents who lawfully possess a pistol are not required to have a permit in order to carry a concealed pistol in the state. However, the South Dakota Board of Regents does prohibit the possession of firearms on the physical premises of SD institutions unless it’s by an authorized person.

It is important for students to be educated and aware of the seriousness of gun violence. For most, exposure to gun violence, at least through the news, is a common occurrence. Educating people about the scope of the problem is important.