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Students Strap On Empty Holsters to Protest Gun Restrictions on Campus

College students across the country have been strapping empty holsters around their waists this week to protest laws that prohibit concealed weapons on campus, citing concerns over campus shootings.

"People who would otherwise be able to defend themselves are left defenseless when on campus," said Ethan Bratt, a graduate student wearing an empty holster this week on the campus of Seattle Pacific University.

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a group of college students, parents and citizens who organized after the deadly shootings at Virginia Tech University in April, launched the protest.

A national debate over gun laws on campus began in the wake of those shootings, in which a deranged student killed 32 people in a classroom building before committing suicide. It was the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Campuses are prime targets for people intent on harming others because laws prohibit concealed weapons there, Bratt said.

But others believe college is no place for firearms.

"You don't like the fact that you can't have a gun on your college campus? Drop out of school," said Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

When someone pulls out a gun and starts firing in a crowded environment, it's more likely that additional victims will be harmed, Hamm said.

"Let's be grateful that those holsters are empty," he said.

Click here to visit the Students for Concealed Carry on Campus Web site.

Click here to visit the Brady Center's Web site.

A group of 12 students chose to wear empty holsters to class this week at the University of Idaho as part of the nationwide protest.

Aled Baker, a junior, said he loses his constitutional right to protect himself and others when he steps on campus.

"It's null and void when you go on campus," the mechanical engineering student said.

Baker, a sportsman and hunter, has a license to carry a concealed handgun and hopes the protest will get people talking about the issue.

Many universities, like George Washington University, prohibit carrying concealed handguns on campuses.

"We do not allow weapons on campus for the safety and security of our student body and faculty," said Tracy Schario, spokeswoman for George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Justin Turner, a senior in criminology and history at Florida State University, also wants the ability to carry a concealed handgun on campus.

"I'm hoping that people actually realize that this is something that college students are serious about moving forward and realize that it's not about taking the law into your own hands; it's about taking personal responsibility for yourself," said Turner, chairman of the Florida State chapter of Students for the Second Amendment.

Congress is considering legislation that would tighten background checks and give states funding to submit information to a national database that would prevent guns from being sold to dangerous buyers. House lawmakers passed the legislation, but it remains in the Senate.

"It fixes the problem that the states are not submitting the necessary records of people who have been found by a court to be dangerously mentally ill," Hamm said.

Family members and survivors of the Virginia Tech shootings recently visited members of Congress to urge lawmakers to pass the legislation they believe could help prevent future tragedies.