Dan Caldwell pulls the steel and aluminum black pistol out from his right-hip gun holster and cocks it back. It’s a Smith & Wesson M&P 45, the compact model, which is easier to carry.
“It’s not loaded,” says the ASU junior studying history and political science.
Caldwell paid around $700 for the pistol and usually caries it everywhere the law allows him to. He takes it to your everyday places, including malls, grocery stores and the pharmacy.
“It’s better to have and not need, than need and not have,” he says.
He’s never had to use the pistol — one of three guns he owns — and carries it solely for protection.
Before he even pulled out the gun, Caldwell took a black wallet from his back-left jeans pocket and flashed his concealed-carry weapons permit.
The white plastic card shows he could legally carry firearms starting December 2009. It expires December 2014. It also has a physical description of Caldwell, a 6-foot-2, 185-pound man with green eyes and unkempt brown hair.
If Rep. Jack Harper, an Arizona Republican from Surprise, gets his House Bill 2014 passed into law, soon Caldwell and many other gun holders with valid permits can carry on ASU campuses.
Harper introduced the bill in late December. He is also the main sponsor of House Bill 2001, which would allow community colleges and university faculty to carry concealed weapons on Arizona college campuses if they have a proper permit.
Harper’s office declined an interview with SPM.
“There’s no good reason for guns on college campuses,” says Hildy Saizow, executive director of Arizonans For Gun Safety.
Caldwell disagrees. He says one reason faculty and students might be fearful of someone bringing a gun to campus is because they lack knowledge on how to use weapons.
Caldwell is no novice in firing guns. He is a veteran of the Iraq War whose training in the Marines educated him in firearms. Even before that, at 14, he would go out with his grandfather to the desert to practice target shooting.
“I was a little excited … scared and a little curious about what’s going to happen,” he says about shooting his first round. The fascination stuck; at age 23, he's rarely without his own gun.
“In the Marine Corps, for seven months in Iraq, my weapon never left my side, even when I was going to the shower.”
Caldwell says he will carry his M&P 45 on campus if HB 2014 becomes law.
The second amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to carry firearms, but Saizow says that’s not what she is concerned with.
“My issue isn’t with the second amendment. What I’m concerned about is community safety.” There must be a balance between the right to own firearms and community safety, Saizow says. And she believes if the Arizona Legislature does pass HB 2014, lawmakers are showing they don’t have “any concern for community safety.”
Even though students might fear someone bringing a gun to class, Caldwell thinks they should already be afraid because of the crime that surrounds the Tempe campus.
Last year Tempe suffered the highest murder rate since 2000, totaling 12 murders. This included the murder of political science student Zachary Marco and the attempted robbery of 21-year-old student Kyleigh Sousa, resulting in her being dragged to death by a moving car.
To Caldwell, carrying a weapon would help diminish some of the crime that has victimized residents and some students. Caldwell believes that criminals target vulnerable places like ASU because they know victims can’t defend themselves with a weapon. A college campus, he says, offers a false sense of security.
“I think there is like a magic bubble around ASU that [makes people think], ‘Oh, nothing bad is going to happen here, this is an institution of higher learning,'" he says.
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