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Students want chance to defend themselves

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  • Cincinnati student is leading advocate for college kids to be armed
  • At least nine states are considering legislation to allow students to carry weapons
  • Police chief: "I don't think the answer to bullets flying is to send more bullets flying"
  • "I see carrying a concealed firearm as a kind of life insurance policy," professor says
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From Kelli Arena and Kevin Bohn
CNN
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CINCINNATI, Ohio (CNN) -- "Would you rather just sit there and cower underneath a desk when someone executes you or would you rather have a chance to defend your life? That's what it really boils down to."

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Michael Flitcraft says students should be allowed to protect themselves from potential killers.

Michael Flitcraft, a 23-year-old sophomore at the University of Cincinnati, has become a leading advocate for college students to carry weapons on campus. He's an organizer for Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a grass-roots organization that was formed after last year's Virginia Tech massacre that left 32 college students and professors dead.

The group boasts more than 25,000 members.

Standing on the Cincinnati campus, Flitcraft calmly explained he is licensed to carry a weapon in Ohio. He wants to carry his gun on campus to defend himself from potential killers, but by law he can't.

"To me it makes no sense that I can defend myself legally over there," he said, pointing to the city streets. "But I am a felon if I step on the grass over here." Video Watch a growing movement for guns on campus »

The issue of guns on campuses has intensified over the last year in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings and picked up again after the more recent killings at Northern Illinois University. Lawmakers in at least nine states are considering legislation to allow guns on campus. Other states have struck down legislation.

Utah is the only state to allow weapons at all public universities. Colorado allows students at universities to carry weapons, except the main university campus in Boulder. In Virginia, Blue Ridge Community College allows students with a proper concealed-weapons permit to be armed. See the status of guns on campus »

For many, allowing college students to carry a gun is a tricky and complex issue.

"I don't think the answer to bullets flying is to send more bullets flying," said Gene Ferrara, the police chief at the University of Cincinnati. "My belief is we ought to be focusing on what we do to prevent the shooting from starting."

Ferrara was a Cincinnati cop for more than a dozen years before he became chief of police at the university. He also said that there are practical concerns from a law enforcement perspective: If you're responding to the scene of a shooting, how do you sort out who is the bad guy and who is the heroic student with a permit?

"The other side of that, I shoot everybody with a gun who doesn't have a uniform on and I then I end up shooting somebody who was a citizen with a carry permit," Ferrara said.

He says education and outreach are key and that providing students with safe and anonymous ways to report suspicious behavior can go a long way in preventing violence. "All of the research shows someone knew before the shooting started that the shooting was going to happen."

At the University of Cincinnati, most of the students who spoke to CNN said the idea of guns on campus scares them. "I think that it is completely absurd," said senior Jacob Metz.

Freshman Lauren Reams added, "It shocks me."

Security officials insist that young adults are safer on campus than just about anywhere else. Since the so-called Texas Tower shootings at the University of Texas in 1966 when 17 people were killed, there have been about a dozen shootings at colleges or universities.

At Weber State University in Utah where students can carry concealed weapons, professor Ron Holt said a weapon provides added protection from potential gunmen. "I see carrying a concealed firearm as a kind of life insurance policy; 99.99 times you will never need it," he said.

Flitcraft and other students across the nation who support gun rights say they won't give up. Students for Concealed Carry on Campus has established a page on the social network site Facebook. They don't want all students to be armed; what they're pushing for is for students 21 and older who are licensed gun owners to have the right to carry guns on campus.

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The group is busy planning a protest for later this month in which students who support guns on campus will come to school wearing empty holsters.

"What is a better situation: Someone coming in and shooting in a classroom [or] someone in that classroom having a chance to defend their life and take out that threat?" Flitcraft said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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