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Assessing Campus Crime and Safety on the Dispute Pertaining to Concealed Weapons on College Campuses

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Assessing Campus Crime and Safety with a Concentration on the Dispute Pertaining to Concealed Weapons on College Campuses


The relevant research that is present on crime tends to divert away from crime that occurs in small communities that foster intellect, individuality, and creativity. These small communities are better known as college and university campuses. The combined university and collegiate systems have an obligation to provide their students, faculty, staff, and visitors with safety and security that protects them while they are on campus property. This research aims to give a background on the current evidence and legislation related to campus crime and safety. It also addresses fear of crime victimization on college campuses concerning both men and women and tackles the challenging argument of the presence of concealed carry weapons on college campuses. There is a desperate need for more recent research to be studied concerning the prevalence of campus crime and the trends that are associated with it to preserve that sense of community and safety that all students should feel. It is imperative that future research continues to discover new and improved methods to keep residents and visitors of college campuses safe by installing advanced security systems and advocating for communication with all members of the campus community on safety precautions.

Keywords: campus crime, colleges, concealed carry weapons, safety

Assessing Campus Crime and Safety with a Concentration on the Dispute Pertaining to Concealed Weapons on College Campuses

The prevalence of crime in any community is a challenging subject for researchers, law enforcement, political figures, and community members to investigate and produce successful policy implications or solutions. When addressing this issue, crime that occurs in the streets, neighborhoods, and local businesses should be included, but colleges and universities also need to be highlighted. It is often overlooked that crime occurs on college campuses because society views these institutions as a safer venue in terms of geographic location, surrounding areas, residential members, and overall institutional values. Society further believes that colleges and universities have a responsibility to protect their students, faculty, and staff from anything that may pose a threat, and that there is a wholesome and trustworthy relationship with local police. The disheartening truth is that crime does not disappear when one steps foot onto a college campus, it is still prevalent, but it may not be as visible as other types of crime that occur off campus property.

To delve deeper into understanding the details of campus crime, several topics will be discussed further such as campus culture, private versus public institutions, legislation on campus crime and safety, fear of crime victimization between genders, and crime prevention and reduction strategies. Also, a recent topic in research has brought about the issue of the presence of concealed carry weapons on college campuses and how it can be related to crime. This topic along with a presentation of both sides of the argument (for and against), current legislation, and policy implications will be addressed as well. The following issue is important to discuss because of the lack of recent research that has been conducted on the large quantity of post-secondary institutions and the various crimes that transpire within them. Research has focused on street, property, and various other forms of crimes that occur everywhere else except for colleges. With the assistance of research review, the hopes of directing scholars’ attention to post-secondary institution crime should be a goal for future research in this field.

Crime on College Campuses

College and university campuses are often seen as unique environments and are viewed by society as their own communities that possess and implement a mission statement, foster growth in several developmental areas, and provide opportunities for new pathways to be discovered by their students and faculty members. The determination of labeling these campuses as ‘communities’ has motivated researchers and theorists to categorize them based on the definition of a community. It is stated that a community possesses three basic components: a fixed geographic location, common ties among people, and social interaction (Dobriner, 1969; Poplin, 1972). Although it can be argued that some of these features are not consistent with that of a college campus, some research suggests otherwise. For example, mostly all college campuses occupy a distinct geographic location, social interaction occurs at almost every corner of a campus, and even though the residents of colleges fail to have kinship or familial ties, there is a bond that is developed throughout the organizations of faculty members and students alike (Sloan, 1994). Furthermore, college and university campuses have regular routines and activities that take place such as students attending classes, studying in the library, residing in dormitories, or attending various sporting events (Sloan, Lanier, & Beer, 2000). Faculty members teach, conduct research, attend meetings, and may be involved in a local event on campus while staff members aid in the continuous upkeep in running and maintaining campus operations. It is important that college campuses are defined and treated as communities because of the various unique characteristics that they possess including the creation of formal and informal bonds, the challenging of intellectual ability, and the convergence of common interests. Although these characteristics may separate college and university campuses from other, more familiar, community settings, it does not eliminate the potential for crime and delinquency to occur.

Crime that arises on college campuses is seldom researched and is only in the spotlight of the media when a horrific event occurs. Most college students that reside on these campuses have an assumed belief that they are safer than the general population that reside outside of the college campus perimeters. In this, lies truth, because the cities and counties in which colleges are located experience twice the rate of property crime and close to ten times the rate of violent crime than the actual campus itself (Volkwein, 1995). On the other hand, in 2014, research has provided evidence that states that 56% of victimizations occurred on campus with an additional 28% of victimizations occurring within residence halls (National Crime Victims’ Rights Week Resource Guide, 2017). These two bodies of evidence illustrate that even though college campuses portray themselves to be safer than the surrounding community, they still are not crime-free and have an abundance of criminal activity that take place on or near their property, ranging from murder, theft, and rape, to stalking, dating violence, and liquor law violations. Over time, campus crime rates have been steadily declining. According to the U.S. Department of Education Campus Safety and Security Statistics (2016), since 2005, there has been an approximate 43.5% decrease in criminal offenses, a 29.9% decrease in arrests, and a 15.0% decrease in unfounded crimes. These statistics are generated from the reported crimes under the Clery Act and illustrate that crime that takes place on college and university campuses is indeed declining.

Theoretical Framework

A form of explaining the occurrences of crime on college campus can be attributed to a criminological theory that requires the physical convergence of space and time of three factors: a likely offender, a suitable target, and the absence of capable guardians. Originally formulated by Cohen and Felson (1979), this theory, better known as Routine Activities Theory, has been applied to crime that involves the college campus community. In relation to this theory, a motivated offender would constitute as the community members that live outside of the campus grounds, or current students and faculty members with motivations ranging from economic to psychological. Suitable targets may consist of laptops, expensive research equipment, vehicles, or bicycles, as well as students themselves and if a capable guardian, such as campus police, are not present, then the likelihood of crime occurring is increased (Volkwein, 1995).

Problems arising from this theoretical application include the lack of a vast amount of security for colleges because of insufficient funds and the belief that college students are regarded as poor guardians. For example, dormitory rooms are generally left unlocked, anybody can come and go at all hours of the day and night, and there are unattended or inadequately secured buildings throughout a campus (Volkwein, 1995). If students are not aware of the fact that crime can still occur on their campus, then they are more likely to become indolent when it comes to protecting themselves or their property. With the combination of a motivated offender, suitable target, and lack of capable guardians, the probably of crime to occur on campus property is dramatically increased.

Private vs. Public Institutions

In recent years, crime among college campuses has been a subject that has been given greater attention, but rarely has the difference between private and public institutions been compared. Certain aspects of private institutions, such as medical and law schools, that have a reputation for accepting the most intellectual and prestigious names from high schools or other colleges, are often not thought of as crime-ridden schools. When a prospective student is looking to apply to these respected institutions, he/she will most likely not consider the crime statistics for that school let alone the probability of crime victimization. While comparing crime rates among college campus types, Volkwein (1995) found that the highest rates of property crime were found at medical schools and health science centers, whereas the lowest rates of property and violent crime were found at two-year institutions (p. 9). This was said to be explained by the fact that medical schools and health science centers are usually equipped with more expensive technology, are in the inner-city areas, and have a small student body. In contrast, two-year institutions tend to have no residential students, which eliminates the possibility for crime to occur in dormitories or at certain hours of the evening. Also, other characteristics that contributed to higher rates of property crime on campuses are selective freshman admission, fewer foreign students, more male students, and a higher percentage of students on financial aid (Volkwein, 1995).

With the intention of uncovering more relevant research concerning crime rates among private and public institutions, a closer look was taken at data pulled from the U.S. Department of Education Campus Safety and Security Statistics (2016). Harvard University, Duke University, and Johns Hopkins University represented the private institutional data. Likewise, the University of Florida, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), and University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) represented the public institutional data. Certain violent crimes that occurred in 2016 were highlighted in this data set including rape, robbery, and burglary. All three private institutions totaled out with rape incidences occurring 53 times (55% at Harvard University), robbery being reported 57 times (65% at Johns Hopkins University), and burglary occurring 133 times (56% at Harvard University). In contrast, the three public institutions concluded with 77 occurrences of rape (40% at UCLA), 19 incidences of robbery (47% at UNC), and burglaries being reported 140 times (64% at UCLA). This research was conducted out of general curiosity with a smaller sample size and therefore does not represent all private or public institutions. However, it can serve as a quantitative statement that society, especially prospective students, policymakers, and university officials, need not turn a blind eye to crime that occurs on their campuses. Rather, they should address the issue that is apparent within the community.


Legislation on Campus Crime & Safety

With the purpose of protecting the students, staff, and faculty of colleges and universities, legislation pertaining to campus crime and safety has been enacted nationwide. There were several factors that led to the creation of laws that aided in caring for and educating college students on relevant and nearby crime. In 1990, during a testimonial hearing, the United States Congress revealed that there was a steady incline of crime occurring on college campuses during the period of 1985-1989. Over 80% of crime involved students victimizing fellow students, over 95% of offenses involved alcohol or drugs, and only a few institutions participating in federal financial aid programs voluntarily provided their crime statistics through the Uniform Crime Reports (Sloan, 1994). To reduce the problem of underreporting and the separation of crime statistics from other local crime figures through police departments, Congress passed the Student Right-to-Know and Campus Security Act (Public Law 101-542) and Title II of this Act is known as the Crime Awareness and Campus Security Act of 1990 (Janosik & Gregory, 2003). This Act required all institutions that participated in federal financial aid programs to publish their campus crime statistics beginning in September of 1992 (Sloan, 1994).

Since then, there have been several amendments to this Act including the most recent version that was passed as a part of the Higher Education Amendments Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-244) which is better known as the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act that was passed in 2000 (Janosik & Gregory, 2003). The reasoning behind this Act stems from a horrific tragedy that took place at Lehigh University in 1986 and involved a female student by the name of Jeanne Clery. Jeanne Clery was a resident in university housing when she was raped and murdered by a fellow student at the university. Since her death, the Clery family worked to try and force colleges and universities to be more imminent about the criminal activity that occurs on their campuses. The major implications of the Clery Act are to push universities to report their crimes, impose a standard that allows information to be shared and communicated with all university stakeholders, and to reduce criminal activity that happens on college campuses (Janosik & Gregory, 2003).  Specific crimes that are required to be reported by post-secondary institutions are murder (nonnegligent and negligent), sex offenses (domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking), robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, arson, arrest, liquor law violations, drug-related violations, and weapons possessions. Furthermore, the Clery Act also mandated that hate crimes and any crime that occurs on property that is nearby, but unowned by the campus must be reported, as well as enacting sanctions, in terms of fines, to those institutions that fail to comply with the regulations.

As of today, any college or university that participates in federal financial aid programs report their crime statistics annually and all the information is completely accessible to the public. This information can be found on any college or university website as well as the United States Department of Education’s Campus Security and Safety website. However, some consequences have risen in terms of clearly communicating this information to the public, especially to those that are directly affected. If an institution is found to not have properly instructed the parents, students, faculty, and staff on how to access crime statistics via the Internet or is found to have withheld information that is not sensitive, it could result in fines or other penalties (Janosik & Gregory, 2003). Another consequence of this specific legislation includes the awareness of the Act, or lack thereof, throughout the student-based community. Most students are not aware of the Act or the amount of information that the mandated reports provide and are just as unwilling to read annual crime reports. If the institutions were to provide a clear understanding of the Act, its’ elements, and student rights considering criminal activity, then education and awareness concerning crime on college campuses could be increased significantly. Furthermore, Wilcox, Jordan, and Pritchard (2007) highlight that crime reporting by campuses has been criticized for underrepresentation of accurate crime statistic figures due to organizational and methodological issues, as well as concerns about student confidentiality (p. 246). The continuous recognition of present drawbacks from the Clery Act emphasize the issues that all crime may not be reported, and students are not being correctly informed fully of the crimes for which they at risk.

Fear of Crime Victimization

Although college and university campuses are generally referred to as being safer than the surrounding community, even after the passing of the Clery Act, college students still report being fearful of crime (Fisher, et al., 1995). Fear is a normal and healthy response that is generated when someone thinks about, becomes exposed to, or is victimized by crime, but it may also be unwarranted and overly exaggerated, which can contribute to high levels of stress or anxiety (Fox, Nobles, & Piquero, 2009). Fear of crime among college students can be produced through direct or vicarious crime victimization and impacts the perceptions and behaviors that one demonstrates as a response to his/her own level of fear. Direct crime victimization is categorized by those individuals who have personally been victimized by crime before and have a rational fear of being victimized again. Vicarious crime victimization refers to the individuals who have not been victimized personally but have been exposed to others who have been victimized by personal associations or through media outlets that publish crime victimization (Fox et al., 2009, p. 26).

There is also a link between gender differences and crime victimization rates. Females tend to be significantly more fearful of crime than males, both in the general population and among the college environment, although males are more likely to be victimized by crime than females (Fox et al., 2009, p. 27). Females report being more fearful of all crime and have a higher rate of becoming victims of interpersonal crimes such as stalking, sexual assault, rape, dating violence, and domestic and intimate partner violence. This rationalization for victimization of crime can be explained by the ways in which females are socialized to respond to crime. Females are physiologically more fearful over all spectrums of crime variations and this could be related to the ways in which they are socialized from early childhood and adolescence. Females are raised to have someone else, usually the father of the household or older brother, protect them. It is a normative practice to not teach women how to defend themselves because they should just rely on someone else to do it for them, and this assumption damages women when they are on their own. Usually, the first time someone is away from home and all its protectants is in the college years, and women are often underprepared when it comes to proper methods of protection and reasonable levels of fear against crime victimization.

Elevated levels of fear of crime victimization are not only present during the evening hours on college campuses, but during the daytime as well. Fox et al. (2009) states that daytime fear is associated with a variation of crime victimization experiences including stalking, sexual assault, and theft whereas nighttime fear is strongly associated with sexual assault (p. 34). Fear of crime victimization among college campuses can be related to the time of day as well as who is perceived as a perpetrator and what specific physical campus features enhance their fear (domain-specificity). Wilcox et al. (2007) examined this concept of stranger-perpetrated victimization versus acquaintance-perpetrated victimization and concluded that women were more likely to be victimized by an acquaintance than by a stranger. Their results from an unnamed institution illustrated that when combined, stalking, physical victimization, and sexual victimization totaled to 34.3% from acquaintance-perpetrated victimization whereas stranger-perpetrated victimization resulted in 12.4% (Wilcox et al., 2007, p. 233). These results indicate that women on college campuses have an increased risk of perceiving themselves to be victimized by a stranger, but, they are more likely to become victimized by someone they know. In addition to this research, women have also reported having higher levels of fear than men, regardless of daytime or nighttime, in relation to certain spatial domains around college campuses (McConnell, 1997). These spatial domains can include campus jogging paths or sidewalks, parking lots, and their location of classrooms, work, or home residence in relation to the campus.

To mediate the effects of the fear of crime victimization that men and women may have, policy implications should include addressing crime victimization and its’ components to the campus community. More specifically, educating the men and women who are directly affected in terms of fear of crime victimization through communication about the types of crimes that occur on campus and the fears that students have pertaining to specific crimes. Also, education on when crime is likely to occur, what types of crimes to be aware of, and methods of protection against crime for both genders may help the students to feel more at ease with their fears of victimization. Furthermore, examining students’ lives to help with perceived risk of victimization may help in easing fear such as considering times and locations of evening classes, the location of residencies and parking lots, and presence of campus police or patrol during those hours (Fox et al., 2009, p. 36).

Crime Prevention & Reduction Strategies

In response to the issues pertaining to crime victimization among college students, there are several crime prevention and reduction strategies that have be implemented across colleges and universities. One of the most common strategies that has been executed in colleges across the country is Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). This approach to enacting safety amongst a community involved manipulating the environment through the modulation of certain design features (Shariati, 2017). The concept of CPTED was based off the framework from “Defensible Space” theory proposed by Oscar Newman (1972) that explained “the contribution that environmental design and layout played in creating opportunities for crime” (Reynald & Elffers, 2009, p. 26). Newer versions of the theory highlighted five principles of CPTED that aid in reducing opportunities for crime to occur: natural surveillance, access control, maintenance, territoriality, and activity support.

With reference to college and university campuses, CPTED has been put into service through the five principles outlined by Reynald and Elffers (2009). Natural surveillance describes the act of watching over one another and provides the college community with a sense of trust and natural safety. Access control refers to the restriction of both entry and exit of visitors through doors, locks, and gates, and allows only certain members of the college community to enter certain areas. For example, students may have keys to their dorm rooms or key cards that allow them access to certain dormitory halls or common areas. The third principle, maintenance, defines that the environmental area surrounding the community must be well-kept and this can be achieved by keeping hedges and bushes trimmed. Territoriality often means that the owner has control over his/her own personal property and may restrict access to intruders. The final component of CPTED is activity support, which aims to involve community interaction through passive or active means. A passive approach to activity support would be to have steady upkeep of landscaping to make the area more attractive to legitimate users whereas an active approach might invite the community to an event being held at the college or university. The five principles that serve as a framework for CPTED work together in combination to provide safety using the surrounding environmental structures and other security measures.

Execution of CPTED around college and university campuses that may be more familiar to residents and visitors are the various sources of crime prevention and reduction strategies such as emergency callboxes, campus police patrol, and CCTVs. Cameras are found in almost every hallway, classroom, building, and parking garage on a campus and there has been an increase in emergency callboxes becoming more readily available across campuses as well. In addition, colleges are becoming more aware of the effect of CPTED on crime reduction and have directed their attention to proper upkeep of landscaping throughout the campus environment.

Concerning campus safety, there are three general principles that underlie institutional responsibility and liability: special relationship, foreseeable risk, and contractual obligation. Special relationship states that “institutions are expected to possess both a commitment to the safety and general welfare of their students and have an obligation to provide appropriate levels of security”. Foreseeable risk claims that institutions have a duty to provide protection from foreseeable injury or criminal acts. The last principle, contractual obligation, explains that colleges and universities are expected to follow through with any commitments made with members of the community regarding their duty to protect those members (Burling, 2003; 1991). These three principles highlight the accountabilities that post-secondary institutions have in terms of providing protection and safety of their community members. To abide by these obligations, a combination of policies and procedures are classified as risk management tactics, avoidance strategies, and crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) (Karmen, 1984). Each of these common implementation practices of reducing and preventing crime helps the college community feel safer and raises awareness that a college campus is a unique environment that deserves to have proper safety measures for its students, staff, faculty, and visitors.

Concealed Carry Weapons on College Campuses

In order to bridge the gap between campus crime and an up rise in the conversation of allowing concealed carry weapons on college campuses, university officials, campus security, and students have been surveyed on their perceptions regarding this issue. Brinker (2008) conducted a study that sampled students from Missouri State University and found that the majority of students did not want faculty, staff, or students to be able to carry concealed guns on campus. Similarly, research conducted at Georgia University by Bennett, Kraft, and Grubb (2012) illustrated that almost three-fourths of survey respondents “strongly opposed” allowing licensed gun owners to carry guns on campus. Additionally, Bartula and Bowen (2015) surveyed campus officials on this persisting issue and found that 91.5% of the sample from Texas University was not in favor of open carry on campuses (p. 11). Likewise, students surveyed at two universities expressed low levels of comfort in regard to allowing concealed weapons on campus and viewed their campus as a unique environment (Cavanaugh, Bouffard, Wells, & Nobles, 2012). These findings suggest that research throughout the years has not changed with consideration to most students, faculty, and staff members reporting in opposition to the idea of allowing concealed or open carry weapons on college campuses. Furthermore, it has been suggested that allowing concealed weapons on campus does not relate to the perception of increased safety and the amount of crime and firearm-related incidences would remain unchanged (Bartula & Bowen, 2015).

Pro-Gun Debate

There are a variety of reasons why individuals may be for the authorization of concealed carry weapons on college campuses. Some of these reasons include enhanced individual and collective security on campuses, and guns could aid as a visual deterrent to potential criminals. Relating back to routine activities theory, a motivated offender may be less likely to commit a crime or use a firearm if they have reason to believe that their targets may also be armed and able to defend themselves (Birnbaum, 2012). Also, this argument presents the case that self-defense is a right that those who are legally permitted to carry a weapon should not be prohibited just because they are on a college campus (Hayter, Shelley, & Stevenson, 2014). Furthermore, the authorization for concealed carry weapons on campuses argues that only licensed, legally armed citizens would be allowed to carry a weapon on college campuses and that criminal behavior could be intervened if someone on campus were to draw a weapon as an act of defense or use of threat.

Anti-Gun Debate

In contrast, the other side of the argument states that there are several drawbacks to allowing concealed carry weapons on college campuses. For example, college campuses use open discussions and individual opinions to contribute to classroom lectures, and if a disagreement were to arise, a student may draw his/her weapon as use of a threat. Also, the presence of concealed weapons on campuses would instill fear among the campus community, turn untrained individuals into campus security determinants, and would create situations that could be easily escalated; this in turn could lead to confusion of the police as to identifying the attacker and the victim (Birnbaum, 2012). Finally, Birnbaum (2012) makes a statement that concealed carry permit holders are not always “law-abiding” citizens and that a substantial amount of deaths has occurred from those who are legally allowed to possess a weapon. There is evidence to support this claim that in 2009 there were five cases of mass shootings (three deaths or more) by permit holders and between May 2007 and April 2012, approximately 400 people were killed by permit holders (“Concealed carry killers,” 2012).

A quote by Alex Hannaford of The Atlantic (2011) captures the “more guns more crime” argument in a nutshell, “Guns are designed for one thing only and the more of them there are, the greater chance of someone getting hurt.” Generally, those who have been surveyed on their opinions regarding concealed carry weapons on college campuses, have reported that they are uncomfortable with it and that passing legislation for guns on campus would do more harm than good for reducing crime and fear of crime victimization.

Legislation on Concealed Carry Weapons

Legislation pertaining to the issue of gun control started with The Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (1993) that required background checks to be completed on all prospective customers before they could legally purchase a firearm. In 2009, the National Instant Background Check System (NICS) denied only 1.7% (150,000) of the 10.7 million background checks conducted on gun purchasers (Congressional Research Service, 2011). Issues pertaining to the usefulness of background checks include the elimination of any mental health history or mental disorders that the purchaser currently possesses. This defect in the system allowed the perpetrator of the Virginia Tech shooting to legally purchase two guns that were used to kill 32 people and wound 25 others when he presented with an extensive history of mental health issues. In addition, federal law requires a gun purchaser to be 21 years of age or older, but to be in possession of a gun, the individual must be at least 18 years of age (Birnbaum, 2012).

With the up rise of this issue involving gun control on college campuses, varying legislation has been passed by individual states. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (2018), 16 states ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus, 23 states allow the institution to make the decision on whether to ban or allow concealed carry weapons, 10 states have provisions allowing concealed carry weapons on public campuses, and only 1 state allows faculty members who are licensed to carry weapons on campus but the law does not extend to students or others in the general public.

Hayter, Shelley, and Stevenson (2014), conducted a study that reviewed the relationship between college campuses that allowed concealed weapons and the total campus crime rates in Utah and Colorado. It was concluded that there was no significant relationship between the right-to-carry and total crime rates on any of the college campuses. The scholars further stated that they found no indication that allowing concealed carry weapons on campus was related to making the campus less safe (p. 18).

Policy Implications

In response to the debate on banning or allowing concealed carry weapons on college campuses, several policy implications have been suggested. First, an enhancement of gun safety such as personalizing gun usage through fingerprinting or other uses of technology could prevent the wrong person from using someone else’s weapon. Concerning the background check system, an improvement would be to include mental health history so that anyone that has any psychological issues can be prohibited from buying a firearm. A potential policy implication that could arise from gun purchasing laws could be that the legal age to purchase a firearm should be raised to at least 25. There is extensive evidence on the age in which humans mature and are fully developed with regards to their brain functions, and most research has suggested that a human brain is fully developed around the age of 25. This change in age for gun ownership could result in less shootings occurring on college campuses or high schools and could even result in people making more informed decisions before they pull the trigger. Policy implications that involve education for students, faculty, and staff on campus crime rates, victimization rates, emergency plans, and safety resources should also be a consideration when discussing the authorization or forbiddance of guns on campus. All the mentioned policy implications are important and should be deliberated when a college or university campus is debating on whether to allow concealed carry weapons on their grounds or not.

Additionally, the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (2008) reviewed the impact that the Virginia Tech shooting had on campus safety and security policy implications in colleges and universities throughout the nation. Most schools either revamped their older methods or began creating new ways of implementing safety communication systems by using mass text messages, social media posts, or emails to all members of the collegiate community. Also, schools required screening procedures for all prospective students to check for any felonies or convictions. A more common execution of campus safety procedures includes the installation and use of emergency stations, cameras/surveillance systems, and building accessibility systems. These policies and procedures not only positively impact the safety and security of the campus community, but also prepare the institution for the event of an emergency.


This research aims to evaluate current trends of crime that are committed on college and university campuses while also shedding light on the recent evidence concerning the debate on concealed carry weapons. College campuses are viewed as a unique environment that has a community-like structure with the social, intellectual, and emotional bonds that students and faculty have created. Crime does not stop where the university gates open and students tend to think that they are safe from any outside harm. While the student population is safer inside the college campus than they are in the general public, they are still subject to become victims of crime. These fears of crime victimization should not be disproportionate to realistic crime rates that occur on college campuses each year, but rather should instill a need for protection and security among the community. Research has shown that the pro-gun versus anti-gun debate among college campuses sends one central message: adding firearms to college and university campus will result in more fear of crime amongst students and does not change the overall crime rates of the institution. This then begs the question: What are guns really doing for colleges and universities if there is no present evidence of positive effects?

Limitations & Future Research

Limitations concerning this research can be attributed to that fact that available data on this topic may be outdated or underreported. Current research is dated from the late 1990s to the early/mid 2000s, and that pushed for the need to research crime on college campuses more often and in greater detail. Also, underreporting can result from the failure of the institution to report crimes in order to protect their name or the students who were involved, more commonly seen amongst crimes committed involving athletes or members of Greek organizations. Finally, it is difficult to extensively research why mass shootings, such as the Virginia Tech tragedy, occur because of the frequency of perpetrators committing suicide after these crimes. If there was a way to study these individuals, then maybe the act of committing the crime could be stopped before innocent members of the college community become victims.

Future research on this topic should continue to explore the reasons of why campus crime occurs, the effects that it has on the reform of safety policies and procedures, and student’s perceptions of safety and security post-crime. Lastly, future research should remain persistent in uncovering the effects of concealed carry laws among college campuses as well as testing the difference between private and public institutions, given that private institutions have a right to refuse execution of the state law (Bartula & Bowen, 2015).


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