Concealed and Open Carry Laws on College and University Campuses

May 12, 2017

By Dr. Andy Pittman and Prof. Gil Fried
The right to keep and bear arms is protected by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution passed December 15, 1791. (U.S. Const. amend II). However, this right is not an unlimited right as Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in delivering the majority opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller. (554 U.S. 570(2008) Two years later in McDonald v. City of Chicago, the US Supreme Court extended that right to state and local gun control laws and not just federal laws. (561 U.S. 742 (2010)
Open carry is the practice of openly carrying a firearm in public as distinguished from concealed carry or carrying a concealed weapon which is the practice of carrying a weapon in public in a concealed manner, either on one’s person or in close proximity.
Currently 45 state constitutions allow open carry of weapons with few or no restrictions. US citizens, permanent resident aliens, and certain non-immigrant aliens are allowed to carry weapons subject to conditions imposed by the applicable state. The terminology describing open carry varies by state. As defined earlier, open carry is the act of publicly carrying a firearm on one’s person in plain sight. Plain sight is broadly defined as not being hidden from common observation, but varies somewhat from state to state. Some states specify that open carry occurs when the weapon is partially visible while other jurisdictions require the weapon to be fully visible to be considered carried openly. Printing refers to a circumstance where the shape or outline of a firearm is visible through a garment while the gun is still fully covered and is generally not desired when carrying a concealed weapon. Brandishing can refer to different actions depending on the jurisdiction. These actions can include printing through a garment, pulling back clothing to expose a gun, or unholstering and exhibiting a gun.
The categories of open carry laws are very similar to concealed carry firearms. Permissive open carry states allow open carry with few restrictions while other states have other regulations as to whom may carry open weapons.
Currently there is no federal statutory law prohibiting the issuance of concealed-carry permits. All 50 states have passed laws allowing qualified individuals to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit from a designated government authority. Regulations differ widely by state.
There are restricted premises where concealed carry of weapons is not allowed. These premises may include educational institutions and sporting event venues. In 2004, the United States Congress enacted the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act (18 U.S.C. sections 926B and 926C), which allows two classes of persons — the “qualified law enforcement officer” and the “qualified retired law enforcement officer” — to carry a concealed firearm in any jurisdiction in the United States regardless of any state or local law to the contrary with certain exceptions.
Recently several states have considered or passed legislation concerning the carrying of firearms on college and university campuses and also to athletic events. In April, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed a bill which outlaws bringing handguns to collegiate sporting events. About one week earlier, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson signed HB 1249 which would have allowed concealed carry in places such as government buildings, bars, and college campuses. The new bill amends HB 1249. In early May, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a campus carry law which places the burden of implementing the regulations on college and university leaders. Starting July 1, Kansas’ proposed law will require state universities to allow concealed carry on college and university campuses. The only way university buildings or facilities would be exempt is if there are security measures in place, such as metal detectors at building entrances and security guards. On March 23rd, North Dakota’s Governor, Doug Burgum, signed legislation that would allow most adults in that state to carry a hidden firearm without a permit. This means that the state will become as of August 1, one of about a dozen so-called constitutional carry states. In December, Ohio lawmakers approved a bill that would give public colleges and universities the option to be concealed-carry campuses. In Tennessee, a bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March would prevent any law enforcement officer with a ticket from being denied entry into a sporting event, and the owner or operator of the facility can require notification, which would have to be posted at the facility. In early May, the Texas House approved 3 bills loosening gun regulations, one of which would allow volunteer firefighters and medical services volunteers to bring guns into restricted areas. In Washington, HB 1015, sponsored by Representatives Shea, Taylor and McCaslin, seeks to overturn current policies that allow private operators of public spaces, stadium authorities and public facilities districts to prevent concealed firearms at their venues. Passage of the bill would force these venues to allow concealed guns on their property as long as gun owners have a valid, concealed carry permit. In the opening days of the 2017 Wisconsin Legislature, a proposal was introduced that would allow people with concealed carry permits to carry some weapons onto college campuses. In February 2017, the Wyoming state legislature considered a bill that would allow people to conceal firearms at college sports events. House Bill 136 was approved by the House and is now being considered by the state senate.
In light of recent situations and pending legislation, it is incumbent that sport facility owners and operators and event managers keep up to date on the legislation in their jurisdictions and implement the appropriate security measures to ensure the safety of their patrons and participants. Furthermore, appropriate signage and notices need to be posted online and in the parking lot so those who might want to carry (either open or concealed) know the policy before reaching the facility’s gates.
Pittman teaches sport law at Texas A&M University in College Station.
Fried directs the Sport Management program at the University of New Haven.


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