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More guns on UNC campuses? Bad idea

When every chancellor and every police chief on every UNC campus agrees on something, it’s worth giving them a listen.

All UNC chancellors and police chiefs say their campuses would be made more dangerous by a bill being considered by the N.C. House. House Bill 937 would allow handguns on campuses, as long as they remain in one’s car.

UNC system President Tom Ross points out that vehicle break-ins are one of the most prevalent crimes on college campuses, so guns in cars could easily get into the wrong hands. This is particularly true since the legislation, while requiring the car doors to be locked, does not require the guns to be locked in the glove compartment or other container – just a “closed” one.

“All UNC chancellors and chiefs of police believe allowing guns on campus would increase the risk to public safety and hamper our ability to protect not only our students, staff and faculty, but also campus visitors, including parents, siblings of students and summer camp participants,” Ross said in a prepared statement this week.

The gun lobby’s main argument for the provision doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Paul Valone, the president of gun rights group Grass Roots North Carolina, said, “The entire purpose of this is deterrence. We are looking at deterring violent sociopaths from crimes on campuses.”

The dangers of a campus filled with guns far outweigh any deterrent effect on violent sociopaths, who by definition are deaf to deterrence. But this bill’s ability to stop a campus shooter is almost nil, since the gun that one would use to stop the aggressor would be locked in a car in a far-off parking lot.

The campus provision is just one in a wide-ranging bill, and the legislation includes some improvements to gun laws. It toughens the penalties for gun-related crimes. It broadens, beyond just parents, who can be held accountable for letting a child have access to a gun. It also establishes uniform requirements for reporting mental health and substance abuse to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

Legislators were smart to remove the bill from Tuesday’s House calendar. They should excise the provision regarding UNC campuses before bringing it back for consideration.

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