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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Testimony in Support of Ohio HB 48, June 10, Ohio State House, Government Committee

On June 10, 2015 I appeared before the Government Committee at the Ohio Statehouse and gave testimony in support of HB 48, which liberalizes provisions of Ohio's concealed carry law, and also, importantly, allows university governance bodies to decide whether or not to allow lawful, licensed concealed carry on campus.  
Room 121 Ohio Statehouse, Columbus, OH, Government Committee, Chairman Ronald Maag Presiding

My statement follows: 

Testimony by Professor Brian Anse Patrick, Ph.D., in Support of
Ohio H.B. 48, 10 June 2015

I am Brian Anse Patrick, a full professor tenured in the Department of Communication at the University of Toledo, and a nationally recognized expert on American Gun Culture. I hold a Ph.D. in communication research from the University of Michigan. My books include The National Rifle Association and the Media: The Motivating Force of Negative Coverage (Peter Lang Publishing) and Rise of the Anti-Media: Informing America’s Concealed Weapon Carry Movement (Lexington Books). In addition to academic journal articles dealing with gun culture, I have also been an invited speaker at the annual Firearms Law Seminar conducted by the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, as well as at the Second Amendment Foundation’s Gun Rights Policy Conference. Additionally I am frequently quoted as an expert source in media on the subjects of concealed carry and gun rights. I comment in this forum as an independent scholar and researcher, in the spirit of academic freedom, and am in no way beholden to any organizational interest or employer, and do not represent “official” views of my university, whatever those may be.    

I offer three sets of proofs in support of HB 48.  These proofs concern: 1) empowerment of universities, 2) increased public accountability of university administrators, 3) facilitating the continued diffusion of a positive, pragmatic social innovation, represented in this case by the American concealed weapon carry movement.

1. Empowerment of Universities. HB 48 appropriately empowers universities by locating the responsibility for determining campus policy on the lawful, licensed concealed carry of firearms, in accordance with Ohio law, within university self governance structures. Universities by their nature function as complicated organizational forms involving various levels of governance by numerous elected and appointed committees. These committees range from departments to faculty senates to oversight and disciplinary committees to boards of trustees. HB 48 offers options to creative elements within universities to develop their own plans and policies, in accordance with state law. It would be a relatively simple matter for universities to adapt policy in this matter seen as suitable by their unique governance bodies. No one is talking about blanket carry or about arming teachers who may or may not be qualified or willing to take on the responsibilities of lawful concealed carry, nor about arming students under the age of 21, the large majority of students on most campuses who would be barred by state law requirements from obtaining a concealed pistol license. Beyond the basics as established by state law, the universities could tailor their own programs, allowing or proscribing lawful concealed carry by citizens, students, administrators or faculty as the university community sees fit. Note, that none of this discussion applies to persons who may feloniously or unlawfully carry weapons unto campuses, persons who would presumably not be deterred by “No Guns Allowed” decals on doors. A difficulty presented by the university environment in that it is open and permeable, unlike K-12, schools where doors tend to be locked down, students contained, and access restricted. In my 20 plus years of teaching at the university level, I have yet to be assigned a classroom or lecture hall that I could even lock, whether I wanted to or not. Doors universally open outward from classrooms into hallways, in my experience, so even the possibility of barring or otherwise blocking a doorway is remotely impractical, despite the common usage of terms such as “lock down” to describe responses to so called “active shooters.” Currently Ohio state law allows K-12 districts to set their own policies regarding concealed carry, and the result has been that Ohio has de facto become a state in which local districts have chosen to take reasonable and prudent steps in the direction of training and preparation.  It seems equitable that Ohio universities should have the same options.             

2. HB 48 as Increasing Public Accountability of Administrators.  An interesting and relevant fact that I have observed about university administrators over the years is that they seemed to have offices that they could actually lock. A university president that I observed had a buzzer/lock system installed to control public access. He simultaneously claimed to have an “open door policy.”  My point is that university administrators have been well positioned to distance themselves physically and symbolically from their charges. HB 48 places the onus of responsibility more on university administrators to develop rational and responsive policies, instead of merely symbolic responses.  By giving them more options in this matter of concealed carry policy, a certain freedom of choice, they are forced to accept more responsibility. In the past I have observed what seemed to be well-meaning employee training sessions conducted by administrators on the subject of “active shooters” in university environments, it is my opinion that these sessions may often consist more in placation than substance, although I do not entirely dismiss the worth of such sessions. Advice such as “run and hide,” or to lock or barricade one’s self into a safe room applies strongly, and also to call 9-1-1 for help. But at one such session, located in a large lecture hall at a major university in a neighboring state, I checked my cell phone while this advice was being given. There was no reception in the hall. I was told that this was typical of many areas in the college. Additionally, the lecture hall was in the amphitheater design, with two doors that opened outward above, and the 100 or so seats arrayed in downward semicircles toward the pit containing the lectern. There was no other way out of the room, and it was not possible to bar or lock the doors from inside, or, without having the keys from the outside, either. Despite the human resource manager’s helpful admonitions to run and hide, and call for help, and to resist if it became necessary, there was literally no place to run or hide. Attendees could perhaps have thrown their useless cellphones at any active shooter who entered the room. Emergency instructions on disaster flip charts that I examined at the same university contained unbelievably trite advice such as to try not to anger the shooter, along with wordy definitions of “active shooter” that looked as if they had been copied from a sociology text. I’m sure that such sessions and documents look very good on an administrative resume, but their efficacy remains doubtful.

3) HB 48 as Facilitating the Continuing Diffusion of a Popular, Positive, Pragmatic Social Innovation, in this Case the Concealed Weapon Carry Movement.  Since 1987 when Florida’s concealed carry law was passed, the Shall Issue concealed carry movement has swept the county. Gun rights have become a well-organized and successful social movement, involving millions of people. Legislators at the beginning were understandably cautious and remain so, but tend to revisit the laws, sometimes several times, to adjust and fine tune them.  This testifies the success of the laws.  No such laws have ever been revoked. Two conclusions seem inescapable. First, the laws work. They do not promote anarchy or violence.  If anything the opposite is true. They promote order and peace. Plus they do not take place at public expense. Many objections to these laws seem to be based on lurid media stereotypes types derived from mass mediated entertainment. Predictions based on these stereotypes have not materialized anywhere to my knowledge in the 40 or so states that have right to carry laws.  The filters imposed by background checks and training have proven more than sufficient to ensure safety and responsibility. A second conclusion is that that schools and the universities and churches are the new frontier of the movement. Legislators across they country are now cautiously finding solutions to the problems of public safety in these institutional spaces. We now see various states extending the accepted parameters of lawful concealed carry to these vital institutions. These parameters may involve tiered systems of training suitable for unique institutional settings and other factors, an example here is the FASTER program (Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response) that has been successful in so many of Ohio’s K-12 school districts, safely training and arming hundreds of teachers at private expense.  The institutions themselves in conjunction with state legislators will be able decide and negotiate what is most appropriate. And I am sure that as the movement continues to grow, this is not the last time that legislators will adjust and liberalize the State’s concealed carry laws to accommodate the needs of the people and their organizations.

Thank you for your attention.   I can be reached at

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