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Ohio State students hope to spark talks about concealed carry on campus

Some students across the country, including some at Ohio State, are carrying empty pistol holsters to college classes this week. They hope to spark discussions about current concealed carry laws - and maybe even change them.

Some of the members of Ohio State's rifle team practice hitting targets at the ROTC building on campus. Other than police officers, they're the only ones who legally have a gun in an OSU building. Every college and university in the U.S., except for Utah, bans guns in campus buildings.

But students this week aim to change that - or at least get people talking. Evan Peck is the president of Ohio State's pistol club. He's one of about 15 students at OSU wearing an empty holster on campus this week.

"Some of us would like to be able to carry a pistol to defend ourselves, but unfortunately you can't carry a pistol to campus and then have it disappear and pick it up when you leave again," Peck said.

Peck said he's not scared when he walks on campus. But he said some dimly lit bus stops in areas like west and south campus present the possibility for crime.

"There have been cases where people have been assaulted at bus stops simply because, uh, alright, the meter police car just passed and he's not gonna be back here for 20, 30 minutes, and I know that guy standing over there alone can't have a weapon because he's on campus," Peck said.

Michael Barrett is an assistance professor of criminal justice at Ashland University. He's also been a police officer for more than 25 years. Barrett said he is not against people wanting to defend themselves, but he said carrying a gun offers a false sense of security.

"I just think people say, oh, I have a gun, I'm safe. And that's not true. Often times the gun is used against the victim," Barrett said.

Barrett added there are also many other scenarios where a gun could be misused.

"So I'm concerned that a person who has only a gun and is encountering what might be is considered a non-deadly force situation might opt for the deadly force situation," Barrett said.

So what do OSU students think about their peers carrying a concealed pistol? 19-year-old Jasmine Margaria is a freshman from a small town near Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. She said she understands both sides of the issue, but she thinks people should have the right to defend themselves.

"I think the majority of people out there who want to carry aren't people who are going to walk in and quote un quote shoot a school up. It'll be people who genuinely wish to protect themselves," Magaria said.

Margaria, who is a member of the OSU rifle team, has been around guns her entire life and plans to get her concealed carry license when she turns 21. So, she said she's fine with allowing Ohio State students carry concealed pistols on campus.

But Brad Petcavage feels differently. He said this week's demonstration reminds him of the Wild West. But Petcavage said he's not against all guns. He said he's an avid sportsman who loves skeet shooting. But he only handles rifles.

"Personally firearms are an excellent tool. However, I believe that hand guns, short guns, are only used for killing people. And there's really no good reason to be doing that on a college campus," Petcavage said.

Peck says he realizes it may be quite some time before OSU revises its concealed carry rules. But he said this week's demonstration is the first step.