Press Room

New Research Suggests that Guns on Campus Make Instructors Feel Unsafe

August 14, 2019
New Research

A recent study published in the NCA journal, Communication Education, suggests that campus carry laws alter the relationship between instructors and their students. Hannah E. Jones, a teaching assistant at Rutgers University, and Dr. Sean M. Horan, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Communication at Fairfield University, found that guns altered the perceived power dynamics between teachers and their students at a major university in Texas. 

Jones and Horan interviewed teachers at a major Texas university about what kinds of classroom conversations they were comfortable having and how the perceived presence of a gun in the classrooms altered those conversations. In analyzing the responses, Jones and Horan found that “campus carry impacted their communication in one of three ways: by causing them to reframe, refocus or resign with their communication.” 

When teachers reframed communication around guns, they focused how they have overcome their fear of guns in the classroom or how they viewed the change in a positive light. One teacher felt that guns were something to be overcome: “I don’t want…biases in my mind if I’m looking at students.” In contrast, one teacher who was in favor of campus carry said, “I feel safer knowing that there are people that may be carrying.” 

Other teachers refocused their communication by altering their interactions with students or changing their course policies. Teachers attempted to keep the classroom a safe environment for themselves and their students primarily by avoiding controversial topics, such as political issues. 

Those teachers who responded with resigned communication felt that guns had, in some cases, irreparably altered their interactions with students. Some of these teachers “severely limited or regulated student-out-of-class interactions” by meeting in public spaces or rearranging their offices. Others gave students higher grades to avoid hostile interactions with students.

Jones and Horan argue that lawmakers should consider how guns might impact the quality of higher education when debating campus carry laws. Teachers may avoid discussing important topics, inflate grades, or even avoid having office hours in their offices. The results of Jones and Horan’s study suggest that more studies with larger samples are needed to better understand implications of campus carry laws. 


Read the full article online here

To arrange an interview with the study authors, contact Grace Hébert at

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The National Communication Association (NCA) advances Communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media, and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific, and aesthetic inquiry. NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems. NCA supports inclusiveness and diversity among our faculties, within our membership, in the workplace, and in the classroom; NCA supports and promotes policies that fairly encourage this diversity and inclusion.

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