HB 48 Would Threaten Safety, Wellbeing on Campus

Editorial Board

“Guns Everywhere” is the apt nickname for the Ohio House Bill 48, which passed the House of Representatives on Nov. 17 and was introduced to the State Senate a day later. If passed, HB 48 would allow concealed-carry guns on college campuses and daycares, among other places like school safety zones and police stations. After a public meeting on Friday, Feb. 19 with Ohio Senator Gayle Manning, Oberlin City Council is in the process of drafting a resolution opposing the relaxed gun restrictions. At the meeting, which occurred in the Oberlin Public Library, City Council Vice President Linda Slocum responded to Sen. Manning: “We believe we have a right to define the tenor of our community.”

Amid national debate about gun rights, mass school shootings, mental health issues and militarized police violence, the bill may come as a surprise to advocates of gun control. Just five days ago there was a school shooting that injured four at Madison Junior/ Senior High School in Middletown, outside of Cincinnati. And we’re not even a year and a half past 12-year-old Tamir Rice’s murder in Cleveland at the hands of Officer Timothy Loehmann. More guns on the sidewalks of college campuses and in daycare centers might seem like a protective measure for our vulnerable youth population, but more often than not, an increase in firearms will lead to an increase in violence.

Recently there has been debate as to whether colleges should act as intellectual safe spaces, but there has always been consensus about the physical safety of campuses. The mere existence of Safety and Security as a campus-specific police backs this up. Despite this ideal vision, campuses can be unsafe for many students. Sexual assault and violence are common across all institutions of higher learning in the U.S., and administrations often fail to remove rapists and assaulters from campus. For many students of color at Oberlin, specifically Black students, the targeted discrimination of Safety and Security officers is reminiscent of a history of regulation and criminalization by the police. It is unreasonable to assume that violence doesn’t occur on college campuses, just as it is unreasonable to expect that Safety and Security can protect everyone.

Allowing concealed carry on campus would ultimately be detrimental to the purpose of academia. Students should be concerned about exams, not in fear that someone on campus is carrying a concealed weapon. Campus security cannot be everywhere at once in case of a violent altercation. Oberlin is already a stressful and oftentimes triggering environment — and if HB 48 passed, it could be even more stressful, especially for those who have a history of trauma surrounding gun violence.

Mental health is a popular topic on campus, with everything from the Student Health Working Group to The Grape’s series on student mental health commenting on issues of access to mental health treatment and appropriate classroom accommodations. With Student Health and the Counseling Center already straining to provide adequate and supportive care to the existing issues on campus, how would the community respond to the additional stress that stems from potential gun violence? The Editorial Board strongly supports Oberlin City Council’s opposition to HB 48.