A recent New York Times article entitled ‘As Campus Fears Rise, So Do Efforts to Enact School Gun Laws’ revealed: “Over the past two years, nearly 15 states have debated legislation, making it easier to carry concealed weapons on campus.” This came as a sharp contrast to California’s Governor Jerry Brown banning concealed weapons on campus in the Golden state this month.
Amid the recent spate of school shootings in the US I wanted to find out its impact on college legislation on guns. By assessing what the gun laws are at SUNY New Paltz and in the State of New York in comparison to the gun laws in other states, I will determine whether the recent school shootings have affected gun laws in schools.
So, after reading through SUNY New Paltz’s police log, I found out that the school is pretty safe when it comes to gun crime. I found the only mention of an incident was in 2004 when two non-students were shot at HAB circle. To grasp both SUNY New Paltz and New York state’s legislation, there are just a few main laws and acts that are vital to be aware of.
Firstly, the NY ‘SAFE’ Act which stands for ‘Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act’. This was passed in 2013 and basically aims to prevent gun violence by making it mandatory for mental health professionals to submit a report of patients who they feel may harm either themselves or others.
Whilst one would like to assume that state citizens are aware of their own state’s gun laws, you’d actually be surprised by the amount of people that don’t know them. The New York State Penal Law holds two main legislation for gun possession and crime. The first is code 265.01 Criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree under which someone is charged with a class A misdemeanor for possessing a dangerous weapon such as a stun gun or a cane sword.
Secondly, 265.01-a Criminal possession of a weapon on school grounds – any known possession of a firearm on SUNY land is charged with criminal possession. Further information of which can be found on www.ypdcrime.com
This graph details how New York compares to the rest of America:
The graph above outlines how most college campuses have restrictions on gun possession and use. However, there are five exceptions, coincidentally one of those states that don’t have specific campus restrictions is Oregon, where ten people were killed in a recent school shooting.
According to research done by the website gunlawscorecard.org/, California has the strictest gun laws whilst Louisiana has the most lenient laws. As many studies confirm, Gary Kleck states the direct correlation between gun ownership levels and homicide rates in the journal Capital Punishment, Gun Ownership, and Homicide. In the two years following the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting when 26 people were shot and killed, 37 states passed a total of 99 laws tightening gun control.
Now we can look at how the recent school shootings, especially that of Oregon, affects gun legislation.
On October 1 2015, Chris Harper-Mercer, a 26-year-old student at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, gunned down ten people. There have been three more school shootings since then- the full list of school shootings can be accessed on westword.com
In Anthony K. Fleming’s book ‘Gun Policy in the United States and Canada’ Fleming established two trends: Firstly, that gun violence focused events impact House gun bill proposals and Secondly, that the gun bill proposals directly correlate with the party that a president is in, so for example, the Democrats are more likely to introduce new gun bills.
Five days after the Oregon shooting, the New York Times featured an article entitled ‘Common Response After Killings in Oregon: ‘I Want to Have a Gun’’ in which Jack Healy and Julie Turkewitz interviewed nearby residents who revealed that, as the title suggests, the shooting actually increased people’s desire to have guns.
But, in a more recent New York Times article, entitled ‘As Campus Fears Rise, So Do Efforts to Enact School Gun Laws’ the journalists emphasize the fact that, whilst we won’t know if gun legislation will be changed until the election next year, there has been an increase in focus by the government on gun control.
So hopefully now it is easier to understand the gun laws at SUNY New Paltz and New York State, as well as in other states and how the recent school shootings have affected those gun laws in schools.