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Bill would allow concealed handguns on state college campuses

Lawton_Concealed handguns on Oklahoma college campuses may soon become a reality if some state lawmakers have their way.  It began with a bill that would allow gun owners to keep their non-concealed weapons loaded while driving.  But, in the wake of the deadly university shooting in Illinois, some House members changed the bill to allow those with concealed weapons permits to carry their guns onto public university and college campuses.

Cameron University is one of the state's schools that would be affected if the law changes, and university officials are keeping a close eye on this bill at the capitol.  It has already passed a state house committee, and the next stop may be the house floor.

State Representative Jason Murphey of Guthrie says a recent Governor's task force advised that $16 Million was necessary to improve security at Oklahoma public universities.  "College tuition is already very high," says Murphey.  "We can't afford to keep spending money on more security, and certainly it's not appropriate to have a police state on campus.  So, why not look at a common sense solution which is allowing Oklahomans to defend themselves."

Soon, several other members of the House Judiciary, and Public Safety Committee jumped on board to help it pass.  "Why should we say you can carry your weapon on Main Street, but if you want to improve yourself at one of our universities, you have to give it up?  That's just not right," says Murphey.

Cameron University Police Chief John DeBoard is very concerned about the bill.  He says it would increase the number of guns on campus.  "I don't know if this is going to make things better," he says.  "It may add to the tragedy."  If the law changes, Deboard fears officers will not be able to differentiate between the good guys and the bad guys.  "We get calls, occasionally, when people don't even have a weapon, but perhaps they think they do," he says.  "That causes a large panic here on the university - naturally, with what has transpired."

DeBoard also worries about innocent bystanders.  "You have to be concerned about everything that you don't want to hit, and at the same time concentrating on what you do want to hit," he says.  "I don't think the average citizen who has a handgun permit is going through that kind of training...is going to be focused in that fashion."

State Representative Don Armes of Faxon says he has some concerns about the bill, but he would likely support it.  "My contention has always been the good guy with a gun will probably save your life from the bad guy with a gun," he says.  "So, it's a pretty basic freedom, that we have to be careful."

The bill is already drawing support from the National Rifle Association (NRA).  However, Oklahoma college campus police departments are making sure lawmakers are aware of their concerns.

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