Milwaukee Biz Blog: An open letter about proposed concealed carry changes for UW System

To the Wisconsin people and Legislature,

On Monday, Oct. 12, it was announced that State Rep. Jesse Kremer and State Sen. Devin LeMahieu circulated legislation that would revoke the exception to Wisconsin’s concealed carry law that allowed the UW System and technical colleges to ban concealed carry within campus buildings.Gun-000000037705Small-iStock-Flight

Kremer’s and LeMahieu’s intent is a noble one: to provide a safer environment for all. Yet, while the intention is one we can all get behind at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, we also realize that what truly matters is the outcome of such important, impactful legislation, and not just idealistic intentions. We need to base our decision on how to best create a safe society on evidence and peer-reviewed research before we choose to flood our classrooms, workout facilities, and residence halls where we eat and sleep, with weapons.

The reason the restrictions to concealed carry laws exist on college campuses is not solely to protect students from violence from others. Mental health issues on college campuses continue to increase at a time when financial support for resources to address these issues is being strangled. The number one mode of suicide is self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and there is good evidence to show that in “states where guns were prevalent…rates of suicide were higher” (Kiewra 2008).

Charles D. Philips, a Texas A&M health sciences professor who does his research on this very topic, writes in his recently published article in the Journal of Criminology: “CHL (concealed handgun license) licensing rates did not have a significant, negative or positive, effect on subsequent crime rates” (Philips 2015). Other research studies have more to say: ‘The totality of the evidence based on educated judgments about the best statistical models suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with substantially higher rates” of aggravated assault, robbery, rape and murder, [Stanford law professor] Donohue said in an interview with the Stanford Report. The evidence suggests that right-to-carry laws are associated with an 8 percent increase in the incidence of aggravated assault, according to Donohue.'”

This demonstrates that concealed carry laws do nothing to create safer campuses, and, if anything, lead to more violence. I speak as both a student and a Milwaukee citizen when I say that Milwaukee needs no more guns. In 2014, 76 percent of the gun deaths in the entire state happened in our city, and recently, there has been a surge in gun crime, with 98 gun deaths this year alone. Milwaukee doesn’t need more dead bodies or guns on the street.

As one of the top hubs for research in the state, I ask that the Wisconsin legislators respect UWM’s evidence-based decision to keep guns out of classrooms, and to encourage an environment of learning, not one where we must constantly be in a state of worry. Again, what we care about is not the intent of such legislation; what we care about is the practical outcome from it. As a representative of my peers, I have the responsibility to consider their safety and well-being. I must ask that the legislature take this empirical evidence into account when making such a large decision for the state. I ask you all to vote and speak against this bill to keep our college campuses safe.

Mike Sportiello
Student body president
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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