My partner should be able to carry a gun to protect himself on campus

Students can’t carry guns on the UNC Chapel Hill campus, even if they’ve gone through training.
Students can’t carry guns on the UNC Chapel Hill campus, even if they’ve gone through training. by John Rottet

I felt terrified Wednesday when I heard reports of a gunman near where my partner works at UNC Chapel Hill. I felt powerless while he was hiding in a cubby room. I felt overjoyed when the all-clear was sounded, and I could breathe again. And when Kevan came home safely, I was immeasurably grateful. But after having gone through that and now the typical fear-mongering that inevitably comes after the real-life shooting in San Bernardino, today I also feel so freaking angry.

After the shooting of three UNC students last year, Kevan and I took a class to learn how to safely handle and carry a concealed weapon. We passed the written and shooting tests, and have all the training required to carry concealed almost anywhere. However, we have not gotten our permits yet, because, among other things, we each spend the overwhelming majority of our days in places where it is a crime to carry the tools necessary to defend ourselves should the worst happen. I am talking about university campuses.

I am glad that the scare Wednesday in Chapel Hill was a false alarm. But what makes me so angry is that it could have been real. And if it had been real, Kevan would have been completely helpless despite the fact that his being disarmed does nothing to make the campus safer, does nothing to prevent a crazed shooter from terrorizing the campus, does nothing at all but make a person trained to use tools of self-defense safely another easy target.

Kevan was not going to be some rough vigilante like the fear-mongers around guns would have you believe. He would have found a safe place to hide and only used the tools necessary for self-defense if there were no other options. I know this, not because Kevan would be some great exception to the rule, but because that is exactly how we were taught in our concealed carry class.

No benefit was achieved by him being made helpless. And no one should ever have to feel so powerless when the answer to the problem is quite simple. Those with the knowledge and training to handle the tools of self-defense safely should not be prohibited from defending themselves, especially not in a potentially fatal school shooting. It is infuriating to me that our state lawmakers have refused to prioritize students’ fundamental rights to defend themselves.

But, my anger today goes beyond just the fact that Kevan would have been helpless in the face of a real crisis or that our politicians continue to refuse to allow students to defend themselves from unprovoked, violent aggression. At a societal level, I’m angry because we have allowed it to be “OK” to call for victims to disarm because criminals continue to use tools of defense as weapons of nihilist massacre, terrorism and crazed sport. And after a day like Wednesday, the real world implications of that being “OK” are just too clear: Victims must stay powerless, and criminals remain outside our control. I refuse to let that be “OK” with me, and those who have made sure that they are trained to safely defend themselves need to start demanding that they not be made powerless.

Peter McClelland is an Elon University law student and a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill and Charlotte Latin. He recently served as executive director of the N.C. Federation of College Republicans. Reach him at