One of effects of the numerous mass shootings in the 1990's such as the tragedy at Columbine was a rise in state laws that allowed people to carry concealed weapons. "The gun lobby was emboldened by these victories," says North Salem's Andy Pelosi, and he's made it his mission to wage an effective counter campaign on the newest front of the nation's gun control debate.
With Virginia Tech fresh in minds of the gun lobby, says the nonprofit founder of Gun Free Kids and its Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, "There is now a movement to allow weapons on campus."
Sofar 20 states have introduced legislation to nullify the bans most colleges have on guns. In nine states, the bills have fallen, he says, and we're trying to run the clock out on congressional sessions in the others.
His efforts have 12,000 individuals and 275 colleges signed on in the face of an organization called Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. The NRA will not necessarily identify itself with it, he says, but the funding is coming from somewhere, he adds.
He emerged on the scene of this debate 13 years ago by just being someone who had been active in various causes. "I started doing volunteer work with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence," he says, and four years ago began Gun Free Kids.
As a result, he's off to lobby legislatures in obvious hot spots like Arizona and the current source of the most contention. In Texas, he says, "There's a large group of students that are actively pushing it."
Encompassed within the initiative is getting the word out that the gun lobby is trying to wrestle control from the universities who for the most part do not want guns on campus, he says. Campus security personnel are also on the same page with administrators. One of the reasons, according to an April 2007 article in TheChristian Science Monitor, is if there are multiple shooters on the scene, how will security be able to distinguish who poses the threat. Not only might the wrong people get shot but it will take longer to get the incident under control, he says.
Of course, the argument is made over and over that one person carrying could have averted the carnage such as at Virginia Tech. He begs to differ. I know a person who was there and was shot four times. It all happened so fast that it would have been impossible to return fire, he relays.
At the same time, law enforcement statistics he points to show that trained officers only hit their targets 20% of the time in actual incidents.. "So you're expecting people with far less training to take somebody down in a spur of the moment situation," he says.
Furthermore, he believes gun proliferation doesn't equal deterrence. The majority of incidents that happen take place off camps, where controls on guns are much weaker," he says.
Add guns to the abundance of alcohol and the slightly advanced stage of adolescents that proliferates college life and the mix could be deadly. "There are so many possible unintended consequences," he says.
Nonetheless, there are about 25 colleges that do allow guns on campus. For details, he directs concerned parents and students to ArmedCampuses.org. Otherwise, he hopes students can lend their voice and are ready to be counted. "We're trying to connect with as many students as possible in order to fight back," he concludes.