A proposed bill from the state legislature that would allow concealed carry at UW-Milwaukee has been a controversial topic throughout campus, creating rallies and debates between students.
There are some student veterans and other groups, such as Young Americans for Liberty at UWM that have been vocal in their support of the law, but both the school’s governing body, the Student Association, and the Chancellor’s office have taken a stand against allowing guns on campus, saying it is not in the best interest of the campus.
The proposed legislation was created by state Rep. Jesse Kremer. He told Madison talk radio station WIBA that the bill is meant to help college students who feel unsafe walking to classes unarmed, having nowhere to keep their weapon once arriving on campus.
In response to Kremer, Vice Chancellor of University Relations Tom Luljak, along with the Milwaukee Police Department, gathered data showing that crimes surrounding campus have gone down.
“We don’t think it’s necessary, it will create potential distress,” Luljak told the UWM Post. “The proponents in the legislature told us that they were motivated to promote this because of what they believe is escalating violence in the neighborhood surrounding UWM, but the evidence proves the opposite.”
The UWM Post’s has made multiple attempts for comment from Rep. Kremer’s office that have not been returned.
Is combatting crime needed?
The map covers two separate areas, one a more immediate campus area, and a second that includes student housing, according to the Milwaukee Police Department. The study looks at crime from Jan. 1- Oct. 15 from 2007- 2015.
Here are some highlights from the data for the immediate campus area:
- Robbery has gone down 8 percent in the last eight years, and 32 percent since last year;
- Aggravated assault has gone down 29 percent in the last eight years, and stayed the same at 12 reported both this year and last;
- Eight less rapes had been reported since 2013, but have increased since only one was reported between 2007 to the beginning of 2009;
- There was a 40 percent rise in burglaries, but a 72 percent drop in thefts in the last eight years. Burglaries are considered a more serious crime that involves breaking and entering into property, where a theft is simply taking property;
- There was a 40 percent increase in auto thefts since 2007, and 119 percent increase since last year. The spike in auto thefts has been a noticeable trend in crime this year throughout Milwaukee.The data also takes into consideration the greater-campus area which spans from Edgewood Ave.(north) to Locust St.(south) and Oakland Ave(west) to Hackett Ave. (east). Here are highlights from that set of data:
- There were 10 less robberies since last year, and down 20 percent since 2007;
- Aggravated assaults are down over 35 percent from 2007, and have only one less reported this year from last;
- Burglaries are up 30 percent from 2007, while theft went down 76 percent since 2007;
- There were seven less rapes reported 2013 with only one reported so far in 2015;
- Auto thefts also were up in this area with 23 more occurring this year than in 2014, but only a few more than in 2007 with a rise from 32 to 35
See the entire study here: UWMCampus-CrimeOct2015
The Student Association held a public hearing on the proposal of allowing concealed carry during Sunday’s all senate meeting. At the end of the lengthy three-hour meeting, the senate passed a resolution that said the student body does not support the measure.
Students argued during public hearing that concealed carry should be allowed, and will help if a crisis, such as an active shooter situation were to occur on campus.
One student and former marine said especially in the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon that killed nine people last month, trained students with guns will make campus safer.
“The ability that I have …to be able to go through and defuse a situation if I need to is critical, where it will take minutes for campus police to arrive at a situation,” said senior Devin Gatton, who served in the marines for eight years.
He argued that students need to understand that campus would be safer if he and other students could respond appropriately to emergency situations.
“My right to be safe trumps everybody’s right to feel safe,” Gatton told dissenters of the proposed law.
But some students on the Student Association still did not agree, insisting that guns would create more problems.
“At the end of the day I don’t want to be in a situation where I am trying to learn and I am trying to be in an environment conducive of education and now… we’ve added another cultural element that would allow firearms to be on campus,” student senator Trevor Jung said.
He emphasized that if UWM thinks that allowing concealed carry is appropriate for the campus, that should be made on a local decision, and not a state-wide governmental decision.
“We as a university have rules and policies in place I want to make sure that at this level we can manage our safety. I don’t want a larger government entity saying ‘hey you, do this’ or ‘do that’ because we already have in our books what we want as a campus,” Jung said.
The Student Association passed a resolution saying that concealed carry laws are not in the best interest of UWM students with 13 votes, while three students voted against and two abstained.