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Avoid campus shootings by LA excising gun-free zones

The same inconsistency that plagued Oregon’s legal code that likely contributed to a tragic mass shooting at one of its educational institutions could come back to haunt Louisiana as well.

Last month, a gunman shot at dozens of individuals at a community college, hitting many and killing some. As in the similar event this summer in Lafayette, the area was designated as a gun-free zone and that may have contributed to the gunman’s picking out that venue to conduct carnage.

For around four decades Oregon education officials had banned guns on campuses. However, a few years ago a student successfully sued the state to allow carrying of concealed weapons on them, as the state had passed a concealed carry law that did not specifically ban colleges. This left policy contradictory – campuses declared that guns (except for public safety officers) would not be allowed on campuses, yet anyone with a concealed carry permit had the right to possess them on campuses. The campus in question had a specific written gun-free policy.

Having taken his own life in the confrontation, as in the case of the Lafayette shooter it never will be know with certainty whether the Oregon targeting occurred at least in part because of knowledge of the gun-free status of the venue. But surely when weighing factors – a campus that held itself out noticeably as “gun-free” compared to knowledge few would be expected to have that they could carry concealed weapons onto campus with the proper permit – an individual with malign intent would think the area unlikely to have intended victims armed to defend themselves.

Problematically, the same confusing situation exists within Louisiana statute. R.S. 14:95.6 defines “firearm-free zones” and includes institutions of higher education as among those subject to these, with instructions to publicize the status. But R.S. 14:95.2C(4) then exempts concealed carry permit holders from any penalties that exist when bringing a handgun within a thousand feet of an institution, although the legislative history of the statute (through Act 925 of 2010) would seem to indicate that carrying remains illegal.

Regardless of the nebulous legality in Louisiana of carrying a concealed handgun onto college or university property neither as a peace officer nor pursuant to a course of instruction (both legal), that the perception of these zones exist on campuses makes them targets for mayhem. So to end the ambiguity and to reduce the chances that an unfortunate episode of this nature will occur, the Legislature should eliminate these zones on campuses. It’s been tried before, but cooler heads did not prevail in the past. Let’s hope for a different outcome when the new Legislature convenes next year.

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