Trump: Gun-free zones are 'bait' for mass shooters

Says he would eliminate them in schools

The push to bring more guns to campus has a new advocate: Donald Trump.

Last week the Republican frontrunner called gun-free zones "bait" for mass shooters—another sign that efforts to bring guns to once-prohibited areas like college campuses are gaining ground, Politico's Kimberly Hefling reports.

Speaking Thursday in Vermont, Trump said he would prioritize eliminating gun-free zones as president. "You know what a gun-free zone is to a sicko? That's bait," he told the crowd. Trump says he would eliminate gun-free zones his "first day" in office. 

As Hefling explains, Trumps position "may sound radical" but reflects a growing movement among gun-rights advocates to roll back restrictions on where people can carry firearms. Many of those efforts have focused on college and university campuses.

Last year, Texas passed a "campus carry" law, set to take effect on Aug. 1, that will allow concealed handgun license holders who are at least 21 years old to carry their weapons on all college campuses in the state. However, public institutions may carve out "gun-free zones," and private institutions may opt out of the requirement entirely.

A national trend

Texas is the first state to pass such a law, but over a dozen state legislatures considered similar legislation last year. Florida is poised to vote on campus carry legislation later this month, according to Hefling. And Missouri is set to consider campus carry legislation this year as well.

Currently, eight states allow concealed weapon permit holders to bring guns to public college campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Advocates say campus shootings are evidence that gun-free zones are not effective. And they assert that “campus carry” laws won’t expand access to guns. "This isn't changing who can carry firearms," says Michael Newborn from Students for Concealed Carry. "All [campus carry legislation] is saying if I'm a law abiding citizen, then I should be able to exercise my right to self-defense with a firearm on campus."

See also: Some campus carry advocates say guns can thwart rape

Pushing back

Nevertheless, some private colleges in Texas have already opted out of campus carry, including Rice University and Texas Christian University. And in Kansas, which passed a law permitting guns in many areas on public college campuses, a group of more than 40 professors recently wrote the legislature opposing the law.

"We believe our community is safest without guns in our midst, except in the hands of on-duty law enforcement officials," they said.

Meanwhile, schools in Texas have faced logistical challenges with implementation. A working group at the University of Texas at Austin recently recommended that students be allowed to carry guns in classrooms based on concerns that "having students and staff moving their weapons in and out of lockers … would increase the chances of an accidental discharge." The group also raised concerns about how officers who respond to a mass shooting will distinguish between assailants and students with guns trying to defend themselves (Hefling, Politico, 1/8).

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