Sitting in class, trying to stay awake during the seemingly endless monologue students are suddenly jolted by the loud pop of a gunshot. The professor shouts to close the door as an alarm sounds and the sound of police sirens blare from a distance. After hours of waiting under desks with hands over their ears, students are told they are finally safe.
Eighty one mass shootings similar to this have occured in the United States in 2021 alone. Whether or not students carrying and concealing would cause or decrease mass shootings on college campuses is a common debate among students attending college, and ESU is no different.
Now, a whole new argument is added to the mix-- whether or not students between the ages of 18 and 21 should be allowed to conceal and carry, which the The Kansas Legislature recently amended.
“The House passed the amendment to lower the age to 18. So now it has to go to the state Senate and we'll see what they do so that if it changes, it'll change (from 18 to 21)” said Kevin Johnson, General Council for ESU. “July 1st will be the effective date, and then it will be age 18. But that's still to be determined.”
With the Senate still left to vote, ESU students and faculty are picturing what it would look like if 18 year olds had the option to conceal and carry. Based on ESU’s reaction to students and faculty above the age of 21 given the option to carry and conceal in the year 2018, Michael Smith, chair of the social sciences department, believes other than an increased number of people carrying, the biggest change will be the student body’s reaction.
“It’s just a bunch of innocent people going around and carrying guns and that's what we see at ESU,” said Smith. “There are people carrying and they don’t do anything. They don’t terrorize non-gun owners and they don’t stop crime either… That's that cultural divide--kids coming out from Johnson County, a lot of them think it’s insane. And the kids from Americus are thinking well, of course we carry guns, everybody carries guns.”
Jerry Cook, chief of ESU Police and Safety, agrees with Smith explaining even the policy changes will not be abrupt, nor does he expect them to be too extensive. The changes made by police and safety will mainly be determined by State Legislators.
“I don't feel that it will look too different. It'll just be some upgrading to procedures, really. And it doesn' change much because it just changes the age and allows access for others. At this time, I don't I don't see any (changes),” said Cook, “There's no negatives (or) positives that will come out of our department. Obviously there's gonna have to be some training with that, you know, every law change and statue change and such they're just always need to be additional training for those changes and that’s usually put out by the state.”
Students such as Raiden Gonzalez, president of the Young Dems, disagrees, believing his safety is at greater risk as well as the safety of his peers.
“Honestly, it's kinda terrifying that our Kansas Legislators want 18 year olds to conceal carry and especially with school shootings,” said Gonzalez. “Lately, we haven't had any but it’s indefinite at any time. Anything can happen on a college campus or any school campus.”
Cook says along with making the changes required by the state, the main goal of ESU Police and Safety is ensuring students like Gonzalez feel safe, even if that means having one on one discussions to ease their anxiety.
“If they (students) ever have questions, concerns or need to talk to somebody...It's (police and safety) 24, 7, 365,. And anybody is more than welcome to come down or call us. And we're more than welcome to discuss those issues.We don't want to invalidate feelings and make them feel silly because they feel this way. That's their right to have their opinion. All we can do is help discuss and maybe ease some of those concerns....If somebody ever has concerns or questions or just needs somebody to talk to you, we're always here… We’ve got to do our best to do everything we can to help students.”
Other students like Mckenzie Haddix, president of the Collegiate Republicans feel an added sense of comfort knowing when she is off campus and outside of the protection of ESU police and safety, she will have the ability to defend herself.
“And so at the end of the day there’s only so much universities and college campuses can do, and I think ESU is doing everything that they can do,” said Haddix. “And you look at the numbers of sexual happening specifically on our campus….and I think it's important that we are able to utilize those rights that we should have. And I do feel that I, as a woman, would feel safer on my college campus, especially at night, if I'm walking home from class. If I was able to conceal Carry.”
Cook emphasizes what’s most important is that the guns are concealed and carried at all times on campus, even in the dorms.
“The whole idea of carrying concealed is nobody knows you have that with you,” said Cook. “And that's the big deal. Because if you open carry, people are gonna notice this individual carrying or they know you have a firearm on their person...Again, for the 17th time, carrying concealed is the whole idea is nobody knows about it.”