CSU reexamines gun policy

Aug 292007
Authors: James Holt

CSU and other schools across the nation were forced to reevaluate campus security after a lone gunman massacred 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus in April. But while many universities prohibit concealed firearms on campus as a measure of safety, CSU still allows those with permits to carry guns.

The university’s gun policy, officials said, is in accordance with state law.

State law allows individuals with concealed-weapon permits to carry their weapons in all areas of the state except those restricted by state law. But public universities are not considered restricted areas, said Jackie Swaro, public information officer for the CSU Police Department.

After the law allowing guns on college campuses went into effect in 2003, CU-Boulder appealed to the Colorado Attorney General and had their campus turned into a restricted area – a step CSU chose not to follow, said Brad Bohlander, a CSU spokesman.

Instead, the vice president, administrative services and the general council met with CSUPD and studied the issue. In the end, CSUPD made the recommendation that state law continue on campus.

“[We] determined it was best to follow the expertise and direction of the state law rather than try to circumvent or go beyond the law,” Swaro said in an e-mail interview. “There was no concrete or anecdotal information available that could show if it is safer to allow or not allow individuals with a lawful permit to carry concealed weapons on campus.”

CSUPD has no statistics on the number of gun crimes that have occurred on campus, but Bohlander said there have been “none in recent years.”

Since 2003, 33 weapon violations have been issued on campus, according to 2006 crime statistics released by CSUPD.

Even with the low level of gun crime at CSU, the Virginia Tech massacre had the administration giving their policy a second look. In May, the CSU office of the president provost began to reevaluate the policy.

Four months later, the policy remains the same.

“No further decisions have been made,” Bohlander said. “But it is being looked at.”

But as Virginia Tech students returned to class last week for the first new semester since the massacre, memories of the tragedy have some wondering if CSU’s own gun policy needs changing.

“I’m surprised,” said Rachael Wells, a sophomore nutrition and food sciences major. “I would just assume there’s no guns period.”

Brian Gley, a junior natural resources major, agrees.

“I’m a gun holder . but I don’t see any reason for it in a public area,” he said. “The only thing it would do is cause problems.”

Though CSUPD recognizes that events like the Virginia Tech massacre are unpredictable, it has developed set guidelines for students based on the best practices established by CSUPD and other law enforcement experts, Swaro said.

“If (students) see anything suspicious, don’t ever hesitate to call the police . It’s never a waste of time,” Bohlander said. “Our police can be in any building in a minute or two, and they’re highly trained in these situations.”

While campus itself is an unrestricted area for permitted gun carriers, all residence halls are restricted. Those living in residence halls must check-in their weapons with CSUPD.

Staff writer James Holt can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Guidelines for students in an on-campus attack (source: CSUPD)

If it is possible to do so safely:

1. Immediately exit the building, moving away from the immediate path of danger.

2. Notify anyone you may encounter to exit the building immediately.

3. Evacuate to a safe area away from the danger and take protective cover. Stay there until assistance arrives.

4. Call 911, which will connect you with highly trained CSU Police Department dispatchers, providing information.

5. Individuals not immediately impacted by the situation are to take protective cover, staying away from windows and doors until notified otherwise.

If exiting the building is not possible:

1. Go to the nearest room or office.

2. Close and lock the door.

3. Turn off the lights.

4. Seek protective cover under a desk or table or anywhere else that offers some concealment.

5. Keep quiet and act as if no one is in the room.

6. Do not answer the door.

7. Notify 911, if it is safe to do so, providing each dispatcher with relevant information.

8. Wait for law enforcement officers to assist you out of the building.

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