OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis believes only two people should carry guns on campus — his police officers and Pistol Pete.
Pistol Pete, the university mascot, doesn’t fire real bullets, Hargis joked during one of the few light moments in an otherwise serious hearing Wednesday.
Hargis told legislators discussing the pros and cons of legalizing guns on college campuses that his predecessor had bullet-proof windows in the president’s office.
Hargis said he feels safe on the Stillwater campus. He’s had the glass removed so he can have an unobscured view of campus.
Hargis and University of Oklahoma President David Boren were among more than a dozen college and university presidents who attended to oppose guns on campus. A hearing at the Capitol was so crowded people stood outside in the hallway to listen.
The day held few surprises. Without exception, college and university leaders oppose opening their campuses to weapons. Gun activists express support for the idea.
The proceedings even featured anonymous testimony — phoned in from a man identified as “Mr. X,” who claimed to be a faculty member at an Oklahoma college or university and who said he feared retribution for speaking in favor of guns on campus.
Activists cite safety from armed people who can quickly react to incidents as reason to legalize on-campus carry. Opponents cited a January 2014 poll that found 63 percent of Oklahomans oppose the idea of allowing guns on public college campuses.
Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, who hosted the hearing, said constituents want to be able to carry guns on campus, and he wants to find common ground when drafting any legislation.
Similar measures have failed to gain enough support in the past.
The law now allows university presidents to issue permission to carry guns on campus on a case-by-case basis. Twenty-three states — including Oklahoma — currently leave the decision to individual campuses.
“I think what is going on right now is working,” Hargis said, expressing concern lawmakers are debating an issue that is “manufactured.”
Few students are interested in carrying guns on campus, educators contend. From 2009 through 2014, college and university presidents only received 34 requests to carry at one of the state’s 25 colleges or universities. Of those, presidents approved 13.
Oklahomans under age 25 make up about 1.3 percent of more than 205,000 handgun licensees in the state, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.