As a nonprofit organization working to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults, JED strongly supports all efforts to improve campus safety and create supportive environments for students, educators and all members of the college and university community. Over the past several years, advocates of “campus carry” laws have cited student safety as a justification for loosening restrictions on the carrying of concealed weapons on campus, however, research suggests introducing guns actually increases the risk of death on campus.
- Substantial evidence indicates that where there are guns, there are more homicides, suicides and accidental deaths. Reference: Harvard School of Public Health
- Firearms are the leading method of suicide in the USA, accounting for half of all suicide deaths in 2013. Reference: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- About 1,500 college students die by suicide each year. When a gun enters this mix, a suicide attempt becomes more lethal, as 85% of gun suicide attempts are fatal. Reference: Violence Policy Center
In our Comprehensive Approach to mental health promotion and suicide prevention, we identify the risk factors that impact suicide rates and recommends seven key strategies for preventing deaths on campus, one of which is restricting access to lethal means. Introducing guns to college campuses, concealed or otherwise, has the potential to escalate an already tragic rate of college suicides and is not likely to prevent a significant number of crimes or assaults.
Even a gun owner like former US Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven, chancellor of the University of Texas system and the commander of the military operation that killed Osama bin Laden, has expressed skepticism about campus carry saying, “There is great concern that the presence of handguns, even if limited to licensed individuals age 21 or older, will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.”
The lethality of guns, when mixed with the prevalence of binge drinking on college campuses, raises further concerns. A 2014 survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that nearly two-thirds of college students who reported consuming alcohol within the past month also engaged in binge drinking during that same time frame. Impaired judgment from alcohol abuse increases the likelihood of being involved in sexual violence, damaging property or being victimized by others. Bringing concealed handguns into this already volatile setting threatens to add fatality to the list. Lethal violence is rare on college campuses, but it’s easier (and usually more dangerous) to pull a trigger than a throw a punch.