Gun control debate reaches Keene State campus

Legislation surrounding gun control is no new concept as America cannot agree on proper and constitutional policy, ranging from banning guns to restricting the ability to carry them. Although a constant debate, it tends to be picked up and considered with special concern following tragic events, as is evident now after the Tucson shootings. New Hampshire is no exception with House Bills 330 and 334, new legislation in the House of Representatives that alters policy regarding firearms.

But even though our beliefs on the ability to carry firearms should constantly be in the forefront of our minds, it is particularly important to pay attention and remain informed when legislation pertains to college campuses. Although HB 330 has passed and HB 334 is being considered, they will surely still generate debate about the application of the Second Amendment on college campuses, and have already begun to as students discuss the effects of both allowing and banning guns on campus.

Other states have taken up the issue and legislated on their own already. Idaho is trying to pass legislation to allow guns on campus except in undergraduate residence halls, and Texas is attempting similar legislation. Utah has already decided to permit guns on college campuses, and Colorado allows each college to determine their own policy. So the question remains, what is truly best for America’s college students? Ultimately, the answer must be constitutional, and unfortunately it isn’t a simple black and white solution.

Public and private colleges and universities have different abilities to limit their students’ rights, including a student’s ability to carry a firearm on campus. These abilities are granted based upon funding: private colleges are not funded by the federal government, and therefore are not required to uphold the rights of the Constitution, while public colleges are and therefore must grant students all of their rights.

Policy on private and public college campuses already reflect this key difference between the two types of institutions. Private schools are not required to, and often don’t, uphold the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, relating to the school’s ability to search students and punishment on campus. Public schools, although granted some control over student rights, wholly respect a student’s Constitutional right at all times.

Constitutionally speaking, students on public college campuses have “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” as granted in the Second Amendment. The federal government cannot prohibit citizens from carrying firearms, nor can the institutions funded by it. Private colleges, however, are exempt as students freely choose to attend private institutions, knowing beforehand their policies and procedures. Students attending private colleges have the freedom of choice, and may choose an institution with firearm policies that they agree with.

Although there are legitimate arguments to both banning and allowing firearms on college campuses, all of which must be considered carefully in order to prevent future tragedies, legislators ultimately have a responsibility to uphold the Constitution. They must not legislate based upon personal belief, but must do their best to shape legislation that clarifies and protects citizen’s constitutional rights.


Allie Bedell can be contacted at


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