Concealed Carrying on Campus in the Post–Virginia Tech Era: Dimensions of State Regulation and Differences in Contexts of Influence Within Them

Date01 February 2022
AuthorBonnie S. Fisher,John J. Sloan
Published date01 February 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2022, Vol. 33(1) 45 –73
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/08874034211028276
Concealed Carrying on
Campus in the Post–Virginia
Tech Era: Dimensions of State
Regulation and Differences in
Contexts of Influence Within
John J. Sloan, III1 and Bonnie S. Fisher2
Debates over concealed carrying of guns on campus (CCOC) usually classify states
as either “allowing” or “prohibiting” CCOC, thus ignoring research revealing state
firearm regulatory frameworks are more nuanced. This study examined whether
such subtleties existed in state CCOC regulatory frameworks by analyzing states’
2018 CCOC regulatory provisions. Results showed that states used a multi-
categorical restrictiveness-by-institutional discretion framework to regulate CCOC.
In addition, indicators of intrastate contexts of influence (firearms, political, and
religious) on regulatory policy differed across categories of restrictiveness and
institutional discretion. Analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) revealed significant
differences in indicators of states’ political contexts, and post hoc comparisons of
paired marginal means revealed significant differences in political indicators between
states prohibiting CCOC and those allowing or those with mixed restrictiveness,
and between states according schools full discretion and those according schools
no discretion. Implications of the results are discussed for state-level research on
firearms regulation and the ongoing CCOC debate.
concealed carrying, college campuses, state gun policy, guns on campus, contexts of
1The University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA
2University of Cincinnati, OH, USA
Corresponding Author:
John J. Sloan, III, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 36561, USA.
1028276CJPXXX10.1177/08874034211028276Criminal Justice Policy ReviewSloan and Fisher
46 Criminal Justice Policy Review 33(1)
Mass shootings at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2007 and
Northern Illinois University in 2008 served as a catalyst for an increasingly heated
debate over concealed carrying of firearms on public college and university campuses
(Arrigo & Acheson, 2016). Supporters of concealed carrying of guns on campus
(CCOC) argue a “good-guy-with-a-gun-can-stop-a-bad-guy-with-a-gun” (Tropp,
2016) and/or citizens have an “inalienable” or “God given” right to possess a gun for
self-defense while on campus (Parry, 2019). Opponents argue CCOC leads to increased
violence on campus, including student suicides, assaults, and threats (see Webster
et al., 2016), and/or guns on campus dampen the free exercise of speech and the ability
to protest (Debrabander, 2016). Polarizing this debate are two landmark U.S. Supreme
Court decisions—District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) (554 U.S. 570) and McDonald
v. City of Chicago (2010)—that together recognized an individual’s right to possess a
firearm for legal purposes and incorporated this right to the states through the 14th
When coupled with multiple contexts of influence (Hearn et al., 2017), including
intrastate regulation of guns and levels of gun ownership, internal state politics, and
the prevalence of Evangelical Protestantism in a state, the debate over guns on campus
remains a salient issue for criminal justice policy because CCOC relates directly to
safety issues for the campus community and involves states regulating behavior osten-
sibly controlled by the 2nd Amendment and some state constitutions (see Spitzer,
2018). CCOC also relates to higher education policy as evidenced by “persistent intro-
duction of pro-CCOC bills in state legislatures” (Johnson & Zhang, 2020, p. 123),
which could affect the CCOC policies postsecondary institutions are allowed to imple-
ment and enforce. Despite the complexity of the CCOC issue, both sides of the debate
often simplify the issue for their base by arguing that states either “allow” or “pro-
hibit” CCOC. Doing so ignores the reality of state-level gun regulations rarely being
so cut-and-dry. Rather, state-level gun regulations often constitute a hodgepodge of
sometimes conflicting provisions that are open to interpretation and include various
dimensions of regulation legislatively intended to facilitate (impede) the production,
sale, possession, or use of firearms and ammunition (Cook & Goss, 2020; Siegel et al.,
2017; Spitzer, 2018). This hodgepodge of regulations often results in the same circum-
stances surrounding buying, selling, possessing, or using a firearm, which is responded
to differently across the states, including those in the same geographic region or even
adjacent to one another (Siegel et al., 2017). Obiter dictum in the U.S. Supreme Court’s
majority opinion in Heller rendered little help in sorting out the constitutionality of
this regulatory patchwork when Justice Scalia wrote “nothing in our opinion should be
taken to cast doubt on . . . laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places
such as schools and government buildings.”
Absent from the ongoing debate over CCOC are answers to several questions that
no published study has addressed, as follows. First, how have states regulated CCOC?
Second, do differences in intrastate contexts of influence (Hearn et al., 2017) on state
regulatory policy adoption, such as CCOC, exist? Finally, what are the implications of
differences in state regulation of CCOC and contexts of influence not only for the
CCOC debate, but also for future research on state-level firearms regulation more

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