College Students' Perceptions of Safety on Campuses with Concealed Carry
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In recent years, several states have implemented “campus carry” laws affecting public universities, which generally allow for faculty, students, staff, and visitors to carry concealed handguns into campus premises. Existing research has largely focused on how students would feel, hypothetically, if such legislation were implemented on their campus. The present research extended this work by assessing students’ actual perceptions of safety (i.e., explicit levels of fear and perceived likelihood of crime in Study 1, and implicit perceptions of campus safety in Study 2) before and after the implementation of campus carry legislation using a quasi-experimental design. The same measurements were taken from students enrolled at a comparable university where campus carry was not allowed. Thus, the two main independent variables were the presence or absence of campus carry legislation and the time of assessment. Students’ levels of fear and likelihood of crime (assessed via a questionnaire) were the main dependent measures in Study 1, and students’ implicit attitudes about campus safety (assessed via the Go/No-Go Association Task, GNAT) were the main dependent measures in Study 2. Based on prior research, it was predicted that students would report increased perceptions of fear and risk, and lower perceptions of safety, after the legislation was implemented on their campus, whereas students at the control university would show no significant changes over time. Such results would suggest that subjective externalities should be considered in addition to objective factors (e.g., crime rates, negligent discharges, etc.) when evaluating the impact of campus carry legislation on campuses.