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Should students be allowed to carry concealed weapons?

The issue is expected to come up again for debate in Virginia.

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The deadly shooting rampage at Virginia Tech on Monday has reignited an emotional debate about whether students should be allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus.

Virginia Tech, like most universities around the country, forbids students from having guns on campus. But as an increasing number of states have passed laws that allow people to carry concealed weapons, gun advocates from Virginia to Utah have also challenged the academic policies that prohibit weapons at colleges and universities.

Their argument is that guns can save lives. If the students at Virginia Tech were armed, they contend, they might have been able to stop the rampage before more than 30 of their classmates were killed.

"The only way you stop people like that is with like force," says Todd Gilbert, a Republican delegate in Virginia's General Assembly. "This guy, when he went on campus, certainly must have known he was entering a gun-free zone."

But opponents of guns on campus argue that their presence would dramatically increase violence in a variety of ways – from accidental discharges to fights being settled with bullets instead of fists. On their side are most university presidents and many law-enforcement officials, as well as academic research.

"The best science that we have says concealed carry laws do not save lives, as the proponents contend," says Jon Vernick, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research in Baltimore.

That conclusion, while controversial among gun advocates, was recently endorsed by the American Academy of Sciences, according to Mr. Vernick. And Tuesday, law-enforcement officials in Virginia were quick to voice their concern that any more guns in a situation as chaotic as Monday's could have resulted in more harm than good.


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