By A.V. Sherk – Asherk@unca.edu – Staff writer
The new UNC Asheville concealed carry weapons law allows students to lock and load, but only as long as their concealed carry stays concealed.
“Anyone with a North Carolina concealed weapons permit can keep a concealed weapon in their vehicle as long as it remains in their vehicle and the vehicle remains locked,” Jason Hutchins, UNCA campus police officer said. “It’s just for pistols. The concealed weapons permit laws only cover handguns, and that’s what this legislation covers as well.”
In North Carolina, the process to obtain a concealed carry permit may take up to four to six months and includes a thorough background check as well as handgun safety classes. The legislation signed into law by Gov. McCrory now permits students to keep their pistol in the glove box of their vehicle; however, students still cannot carry their handguns on their person. According to Hutchins, most people who make time to abide by the legal procedures won’t become lethally armed criminals.
“I don’t see them doing this ‘Old West, carry it on their hip,’” Hutchins said. “I don’t have a problem with it. I went through and got my handgun permit at 21, when I was college age. Most people that are non-criminals are going to abide by the law and abide by the rules of the concealed weapons permit statute. (The people) going through the training class, the background check, I don’t see them causing problems.”
UNCA officials have sent out a mass email to all UNCA students covering UNCA’s crime record since 2010. Liquor and drug violations top the list. In 2012, 73 on-campus drug abuse violations, 127 liquor law violations and only two weapon violations occurred. For the last three years, weapon violations comprise the smallest category of offenses. Earlier this semester, an officer spotted a student wearing a hunting knife on his belt. The officer confiscated the student’s weapon and issued a warning to the student about UNCA’s weapon policy.
“There was a student on campus who carries on his belt a hunting knife, a fixed blade knife, and from what I remember, it was 3 or 4 inches long. Just kind of a medium-sized hunting knife, and our chief actually saw him on campus with it. He spoke to him and informed him we didn’t allow any kind of hunting knife or fixed-blade weapon on campus. So he sees the weapon, and brings the student in (to Vance Hall) then I checked it into evidence,” Hutchins said.
Although the student was in violation of university policy, he can pick up his knife from Vance Hall at any time.
“He is of age, he is an adult. He can pick it up later, it’s really up to our chief and his discretion,” Hutchins said. “What will probably happen – and I don’t believe he’s picked it up as of yet and it has been 30 days – is we will return it to his parents.”
The parallel between campus weapon regulations and N.C. state law on concealed carry is almost humorous, according to Logan Greenleaf, a UNCA alumnus.
“So wait, you can keep a gun in your car but you can’t carry a hunting knife? That seems kind of ironic,” Greenleaf said. “I mean, a person can do a lot more damage to a lot more people with a gun than a knife.”
Ashleigh Hillen, a UNCA sophomore said she carries a pocket knife and plans to obtain a concealed weapons permit once she is 21 years old.
“I don’t see a problem with it,” Hillen said. “As long as the gun isn’t brought into the dorms or school buildings, what harm can it do?”
According to Hutchins, students who hail from the rural regions of North Carolina are most likely to carry weapons.
“North Carolina is a state where a lot of people hunt, they fish, they garden, the whole nine yards,” Hutchins said. “So we have a lot of students that come here from rural areas and they have knives and they don’t realize you can’t walk around with your hunting knife with you on campus. Most men carry a small pocket knife or a penknife, especially in the South. I don’t have an issue with that for a college campus or in general. Things that aren’t allowed like the hunting knives, the fixed-blade knives, I don’t see why you would need that on campus.”