The Indiana University Maurer School of Law Federalist Society hosted a debate about campus carry on Monday. Amy Swearer, a Senior Legal Fellow with the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, opposed Professor Jody Madeira. The two debaters presented opposing interpretations of the United States’ tradition of regulating firearms in “sensitive” places, especially college campuses, with Swearer generally favoring allowing college students to carry firearms on campus and Madeira generally opposing it.
The organizers and two debaters were cordial and respectful during the debate, a majority of which was purely academic, discussing legal arguments and constitutional interpretation. Swearer and Madeira jointly walked through the history of major judicial rulings in order to better explain to the audience the context of the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc v. Bruen. The law required New York residents to show a “proper cause” before they were able to get a concealed carry license, which the court ruled violated the Second Amendment.
The major point of disagreement during the legal discussion was whether specific instances of historic regulation were representative of the tradition of constitutional regulation.
A particular example discussed was student firearm regulations at the University of Virginia. These regulations were first approved by the Central College Board of Visitors, which included both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who were also leading proponents of the Bill of Rights.
Both debaters acknowledged some ambiguity in the examples provided, and that reasonable disagreements on them are at the heart of the constitutional debate.
The second part of the debate was a policy discussion, focused around “campus carry” legislation that they expect the Indiana General Assembly to propose in some form in the coming years.
Madeira and Swearer then discussed relative risk levels of different types of gun crime on campus.
Swearer pointed out that though firearms are prohibited on campus, Indiana University does not have security measures in place to enforce this. She said that while anything that can “fit on a t-shirt is probably bad public policy,” the “good guy with a gun” argument is applicable here.
While disagreeing that Swearer’s arguments were persuasive in the context of a college campus, Madeira acknowledged that armed bystanders can be helpful in an active-shooter situation if they are well-trained. She pointed to the example of the shooting last year at Greenwood Park Mall in Greenwood, IN. When asked why such an argument did not apply to a campus setting, Madeira pointed to a lack of proper training amongst students as well as high rates of alcohol and substance abuse and other mental health issues.
Looking to end the debate on a positive note, Madeira and Swearer sought to find common ground policy proposals. They agreed that the extremes of an absolute ban on firearms and absolutely no restrictions were far from the only two options. Instead of taking the more polarized stances, they spent the last few minutes of the debate discussing ways to structure firearms training and specialty licenses with higher requirements to allow properly trained individuals to carry on campus.
Image from left to right: Claudia Eder, Jody Madeira, Amy Swearer, Brandon Borgemenke
Marcus Bridgeman is the Opinion Editor at The Collegiate Commons. In his own columns, he focuses on issues of public policy and political philosophy. Bridgeman is a native Hoosier and a law student.