COLUMBIA — MU’s College Republicans and College Democrats came together in Middlebush Auditorium on Thursday night to co-sponsor a discussion on the effects of concealed-carry legislation.
Robert Blake, professor emeritus of family and community medicine at MU, and Jeff Milyo, professor of economics and the Frederick A. Middlebush professor of social sciences at MU, also presented their views on the issue.
Milyo said the purpose of the discussion was not to engage in debate but to inform the audience on the information available.
During the discussion, Blake and Milyo said the problem with debate is that there is no study that definitively supports one side over the other.
Milyo said he agreed with people who look at the material on conceal-and-carry law and say there is no real consensus on whether it helps or hurts people. Even someone trying to be well-informed on the issue will encounter biased materials, he said.
“You really have to work to come up with anything objectively and evaluate the evidence,” Milyo said.
Milyo questioned whether or not the benefits of concealed-carry outweigh the costs.
Blake talked about his feelings at the beginning of his presentation from the public health aspect of the issue.
“My conclusion is the net harm will outweigh the net benefit, so I’m opposed,” Blake said.
Blake presented statistics from the state of Missouri’s violent crime rate since September 2003, when residents were first allowed to obtain concealed-carry permits.
Comparing 2004 to 2007 with the previous four years, the murder rate in Missouri had gone up 8.8 percent, while the rate of rape had increased 14.5 percent, Blake said. However, the overall violent crime rate was the same.
The problem with these statistics, Milyo said, is there is no control. He said finding a definite answer is going to be hard because the relationship between guns and crime is hard to measure accurately.
Once the formal presentations were over, the audience had an opportunity to raise questions, including those about the kind of message the legislation would send and the psychological effects it would have on people who have guns to protect themselves.
After the discussion, Nate Kennedy of the College Democrats and Brett Dinkins of the College Republicans agreed that Blake and Milyo did a good job presenting the material.
“They added a lot to the debate,” Kennedy said. “Some things were said that I haven’t heard, and I’ve been debating the issue for a couple months.”
Kennedy and Dinkins also agree there is no evidence that points to an increase or decrease in violence with concealed weapons. However, they disagree about the action the Missouri legislature should take.
“Having guns in a crowded lecture hall increases the probability of an accidental discharge leading to injury or death,” Kennedy said. “That probability is enough to lead me to not support the bill.”
Dinkins supports his argument for concealed weapons based on universities in Utah, which he said began allowing concealed weapons on campus in 2004 and have not had any gun violence, gun suicides or gun thefts since.
“Ultimately, we have the right as students to defend ourselves,” Dinkins said. “A student can stop a campus shooting. All it takes is one incident to see we did the right thing.”