Guns on Campus

The OAH does not believe, and has seen no clear evidence to suggest, that guns on campus improve public safety or promote academic freedom.  On the contrary, guns on campus seem more likely to pose a tangible threat to public safety in the form of acquaintance murders or student suicides, especially given the growing data on depression and anxiety.  Guns on campus may also pose an intangible threat to academic freedom in the form of self-censorship in the classroom and on matters of scholarly or public interest.  Nevertheless, the variety and complexity of state laws and institutional policies make it impossible for the OAH to endorse a general policy at this time.  Instead, the OAH recommends that all members:

  • Learn about their institution’s policies about guns on campus;
  • Inform themselves about state law regarding gun ownership and possession;
  • Consult the OAH website about possible policies and practices regarding guns on campus;
  • Raise the issue of guns on campus in appropriate forums to build awareness and consensus, if desired.

For additional information on these recommendations, click here.


Laws and jurisprudence related to guns on college and university campuses are largely determined at the state level. All states prohibit the carrying of firearms in specified sensitive locations. Many states list institutions of higher education as prohibited sensitive locations. However –

  • Laws vary widely from state to state - The organizations below provide state-by-state information about campus carry laws and regulations (some sites are updated more recently than others)
  • Policies may also vary within states based on a number of factors
    • public vs private institutions
      (private institutions are more able than public institutions to set policy at the campus level)
    • outside vs inside spaces
      (for example, parking lots or sporting events vs classrooms or dormitories)
    • open vs concealed carry
      (open carry means the firearm is wholly or partially visible; concealed carry means the firearm is not visible; campus carry policies generally focus on concealed carry)
    • permit vs permitless carry
      (largely determined by state or local laws regarding license or permit to carry requirements)
  • Overview of state laws, 2017 – as reported by the National Conference of State Legislatures

ban concealed carry on IHE campuses

leave the decision to each IHE campus

allow concealed carry in some campus areas

allow concealed carry in all campus areas

16 states

23 states

9 states

2 states


informational sampling


1. Recommendations by Brandi Hephner LaBanc, Kerry Brian Melear, Brian O. Hemphill, “The Debate over Campus-Based Gun Control Legislation,” Journal of College and University Law, 40:3 (October 1, 2014): 397-424.

  • First, with the frequent shifts in legislation, each campus should consider an annual review of policy and procedures. An ad hoc committee comprised of a myriad of representatives can complete this annual review
  • Second, it is important for administrators to engage the campus in an educated debate. ...pool varying opinions from all sides of the debate
  • Third, realize exceptions to the policy are vital. ...such... as ROTC
  • Fourth … avoid the creation of an underground gun culture … an environment in which students feel the need to hide weapons
  • Fifth, in the implementation of policy language, create a sound and specific definition of what constitutes a “weapon”
  • Finally, campus weapons policies should be applicable to everyone, including faculty, staff, students and visitors




2. Sampling of PUBLIC vs PRIVATE UNIVERSITY policies in the same state

Hover over endnotes to see excerpts from these campus policies; use hyperlinks to view relevant pages of campus websites.

ban concealed carry on IHE campuses

leave the decision to each IHE campus

allow concealed carry in some campus areas

allow concealed carry in all campus areas

Massachusetts is one of the 16 states (2017)

Ohio is one of the 23 states (2017)

Georgia is one of the 9 (2017)

Colorado is one of the 2 states (2017)


University of Massachusetts-Amherst [i]

Ohio State University [ii] 

Georgia Southern University [iii]

University of Colorado [iv]


Amherst College [v]

Ohio Wesleyan University [vi] 

Emory University [vii]

University of Denver [viii]


[i]    Public: University of Massachusetts-Amherst

It is a violation of Massachusetts General Law to possess a firearm on school grounds (this includes your residence hall room). It does not matter if you are properly licensed to carry a firearm in the State of Massachusetts; it is still a crime to bring it to UMass Amherst. (Unlicensed possession is an additional and more serious crime.) The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has recently ruled that even a “BB gun” is a firearm for purpose of this statute. The more obvious firearms include pistols, rifles, and shotguns. If it is determined that you have a firearm or other dangerous weapon at this university, you are subject to criminal prosecution in State Court and/or suspension or expulsion from UMass Amherst.


[ii]   Public: Ohio State University 


Prohibited Conduct:

(D) Dangerous weapons or devices.

Storage or possession of dangerous weapons, devices, or substances including, but not limited to, firearms, ammunition or fireworks, unless authorized by an appropriate university official or permitted by a university policy, even if otherwise permitted by law. Use or misuse of weapons, devices, or substances in a manner that causes or threatens serious harm to the safety or security of others. As required by Ohio Revised Code Section 2923.1210, this section does not prohibit a student who has been issued a valid concealed handgun license from transporting or storing a firearm or ammunition when both of the following conditions are met:

  1. Each firearm and all of the ammunition remains inside the person’s privately owned motor vehicle while the person is physically present inside the motor vehicle, or each firearm and all of the ammunition is locked within the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment or container within or on the person’s privately owned motor vehicle;
  2. The vehicle is in a location where it is otherwise permitted to be.


[iii]               Public: Georgia Southern University


                Effective July 1, 2017, the Georgia House Bill 280, commonly referred to as the “campus carry” legislation has been implemented on all University System of Georgia campuses including Georgia Southern University. For more information please visit the USG website for House Bill 280.

            6.11 Weapons

                The University System of Georgia (USG) prohibits all weapons on property owned or leased by the USG and its institutions, except as specifically provided herein or as provided in federal or state law.  

            A weapons carry license holder may carry a handgun in any building or on any real property owned or leased by the USG and its institutions; provided, however, that such exception shall:(i) Not apply to buildings or property used for athletic sporting events or student housing, including, but not limited to, fraternity and sorority houses; (ii) Not apply to any preschool or childcare space located within such buildings or real property; (iii) Not apply to any room or space being used for classes related to a college and career academy or other specialized school …; (iv) Not apply to any room or space being used for classes in which high school students are enrolled; (v) Not apply to faculty, staff, or administrative offices or rooms where disciplinary proceedings are conducted; (vi) Only apply to the carrying of handguns…; (vii) Only apply to the carrying of handguns which are concealed.


[iv]                     Public: University of Colorado


                Policy 14I: Weapons Control

                WHEREAS the unauthorized possession of firearms, explosives, and other dangerous or illegal weapons on or within any University of Colorado campus, leased building, areas under the jurisdiction of the local campus police department or areas where such possession interferes with the learning and working environment is inconsistent with the academic mission of the university and, in fact, seriously undermines it;...

                WHEREAS in passing the Colorado Concealed Carry Act, Colorado Revised Statute 18-12-201 et seq., Colorado’s General Assembly authorized qualified citizens to obtain a permit to carry concealed weapons and the Colorado Supreme Court has held that the Act applies to university property;...

                NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the unauthorized possession of the firearms, explosives, or other dangerous or illegal weapons on or within any University of Colorado campus, leased building, other area under the jurisdiction of the local campus police department is prohibited. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the University of Colorado shall not, by rule or regulation, restrict the ability of any person who has been lawfully issued a permit to carry a concealed handgun under the provisions of Colorado law to exercise the right to concealed carry in any public places or publicly accessible buildings on the University of Colorado campuses. It shall not be a violation of this policy for such person to carry a concealed handgun consistently with the requirements of Colorado law...

                ...the chancellor of each campus shall have the authority to enter contracts with students, employees, and guests of the University of Colorado governing the terms of that relationship, including contractually limiting the ability of persons to exercise the ability to possess a concealed firearm in those buildings or facilities...

                ...In the case of a student who is found guilty via a due process procedure to have intentionally or recklessly used or possessed an unauthorized weapon in a way that would intimidate, harass, injure or otherwise interfere with the learning and working environment of the university, the minimum disciplinary sanction shall be expulsion….In the case of an employee who is found guilty via a due process procedure to have intentionally or recklessly used or possessed an unauthorized weapons in a way that would intimidate, harass, injure or otherwise interfere with the learning and working environment of the university, the minimum disciplinary sanction shall be termination of employment, subject to such other rules governing the employment relationship.

                History: Adopted March 17, 1994; revised September 12, 2012


[v]              Private: Amherst College, MA


            23.2. Policy

                Except as noted below, the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts prohibit the possession of the following on the campus of any college or university: any firearm, stiletto, dagger, dirk knife, any knife having a double-edged blade, a switch knife or any knife having an automatic spring release which has a blade over one and one-half inches, a sling shot, black jack, metallic knuckles or knuckles of any substance with a similar effect as metallic knuckles, pellet guns, BB guns, mace, and pepper spray.

                In addition to the weapons identified above, Amherst College also prohibits all other weapons, including, but not limited to: open flames (unless otherwise approved by Environmental Health and Safety), ammunition, explosives, paintball guns, replica guns (except as noted below), electronic incapacitation or other stun weapons, and any other object (including an otherwise innocuous object) that the college determines could be used (or is being used) to harass or injure another individual or that the college reasonably determines has the effect of intimidating another individual.


[vi]                     Private: Ohio Wesleyan University, OH


                Weapons, including all martial arts weapons, brass knuckles, knives (other than small pocket knives), slingshots, explosives (including fireworks of any kind), and firearms (which include BB guns, paintball guns, pellet guns, stun guns, and air guns) are prohibited at Ohio Wesleyan University.

                The only exception to this policy, pursuant to State Bill 199, is that an individual who has a license to conceal carry in Ohio may store a handgun and munitions in a locked motor vehicle in a campus parking lot, or be in the immediate process of placing a handgun inside a locked motor vehicle in a campus parking lot. Such firearms and munitions must remain inside the vehicle at all times. Any student found to possess a weapon in a manner that does not comply with this policy may have the weapon confiscated and will be referred to the Student Conduct System. The University may also call for a local law enforcement response if the potential threat to others is unknown.

                Students involved with gun club activities, such as skeet shooting, and with hunting or other related activities must store their guns at an off-campus facility. Paint ball guns and their cartridges are not allowed on campus due to the clean-up problems and their potential for injury.

                Because of the potential dangers, students are encouraged to report to Public Safety the presence of any weapons on campus.


[vii]              Private: Emory University, GA

            Emory University is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for its students, staff, and instructors. Accordingly, the possession of firearms or other dangerous weapons at any location is strictly prohibited. Using, possessing, or storing any weapons, fireworks, explosives, or dangerous/flammable chemicals on university premises is forbidden without authorization and/or express permission from a university official.



[viii]                   Private: University of Denver, CO


                The University of Denver is committed to providing a safe workplace and therefore prohibits the possession of dangerous weapons.

                Any possession and/or use of weapons, explosives, fireworks, or other object designed and/or used to inflict injury or damage while on University property is prohibited. This includes, but is not limited to, items that simulate such dangerous objects. The possession of non-lethal self-defense instruments is not prohibited; however, the reckless use of such devices may be considered a violation of this policy.

                It shall also be a violation of University policy to possess any weapon on the private property of the University even if the bearer possesses a valid concealed weapon permit issued under current Colorado state statute.

                For the purposes of this policy weapons are defined in Colorado Revised Statutes 18-12-101 & 18-12-102.