As of last Tuesday, Wisconsin’s concealed weapons legislation is in effect.
Since Wisconsin is one of the only states permitting concealed weapons but not exempting college and university properties, students have likely noticed the signs posted on all residence halls and office and academic buildings declaring each building’s prohibition of weapons. Perhaps most jarring is the sign in the shape of an arrow placed in front of St. Joan of Arc Chapel and pointing at the door.
Marquette’s no-weapons policy does not extend to university student apartments or parking lots structures. The university can, however, require that weapons in university-owned apartments and in vehicles be securely stored and locked.
Over 25,000 applications for concealed carry permits have been submitted to the Wisconsin Department of Justice. Of those applications, 1,669 licenses had been approved, and 339 were rejected.
This means the department processed a small percent of the applications within the first few days. While this is comforting because it implies that the applications are being reviewed carefully, it is also worrisome.
The state only has 45 days to issue a concealed weapons license once a valid application has been received. At the current rate, only around 75 percent of the applications will be processed in time. The Department of Justice will have to pick up its pace.
It seems impossible that this can happen without mistakes being made and details being overlooked. Additionally, the fact that there were more than 25,000 applications to carry weapons legally in the law’s first few days of existence seems very excessive. We would urge students and faculty, however, not to panic.
Forty-eight other states already have concealed carry laws in place — Illinois being the exception — and the country has not yet plunged into madness (overlooking, of course, the chaos of our current economical and political situations).
It is, after all, reassuring the Wisconsin Department of Justice does seem to be acting cautiously when reviewing applications for licenses. According to the Journal Sentinel, other people within the department have been pulled to help process the applications and have committed to working late nights and on weekends to do their jobs thoroughly and avoid mistakes.
It is hard right now for us to conceptualize what the estimate 25,000 means for Wisconsin, both in the time being and for the years to come.
Will the widespread legalization of weapons promote the development over the course of the next several decades of a pro-weapons, self-defense, intrinsically violent mentality of our culture? There is no way for us to know.
It is perhaps unnerving to imagine what percentage of that number encompasses Marquette students who will now be legally walking down Wisconsin Avenue and into university-owned apartments with guns beneath their belts.
On the other hand, in light of the recent muggings and increased crime against college students in Milwaukee, we cannot forget to ask whether the possibility that a student is carrying a firearm will deter a criminal from committing such an act.
Captain Russell Shaw, head of Marquette’s Department of Public Safety, did not rule out such a possibility, as quoted last month in the Tribune.
Our point is that everyone should take a deep breath. Let us neither panic nor rejoice just yet. Guns are not taking over Wisconsin, and criminals are not being scared to commit crimes yet, to our knowledge. Again, 48 other states with similar laws are doing OK.
While there are areas of genuine concern that must be addressed in the coming weeks and months, we can take a step back from sensationalizing the law right now and seek educated discourse, which will undoubtedly arise on the public stage in due time.