Friday, January 10, 2014

Campus Weapons Policy


During my undergraduate career, I tried and failed to have my alma matter (West Chester University) revise their policy related to weapons on campus. I wrote letters to the University President and Chancellor of the State System for Higher Education (PASSHE), as well as writing a letter to the editor of the school paper (and discovered the Editor at the time utterly lacked journalistic integrity… but that’s a story for another time). That being said, I wonder if my letter to the Chancellor was part of what got the ball rolling to re-evaluate the current policies.

At present, West Chester University has 2 posted policies relating to weapons:
  • The first is published on the Campus PD website, and is rather simply “…It shall be prohibited for anyone to possess or control weapons , firearms or dangerous devices at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.” The penalty is listed as “campus administrative or judicial actions” Whole Policy here:http://www.wcupa.edu/dps/documents/WeaponsAndDangerousDevicesPolicy.pdf
  • The second is published in the student code of conduct, which says: “Weapons - Use, possession, or transportation of (a) fireworks, (b) firearms, (c) knives, (d) paintball or BB guns, (e) explosives, (f) ammunition, (g) weapons, or (h) any item which has been modified or adapted so that it can be used as a weapon, or an item which has been used as a weapon.” http://www.wcupa.edu/_services/stu.lif/ramseyeview/policies/coc_standards.asp


The proposed policy, published here (http://www.passhe.edu/inside/er/Documents/Draft%20Weapons%20Policy.pdf), is a slight step in a rational direction. I do want to acknowledge the positives: pocketknives and keychain pepper spray are clearly exempted - something rational that hasn't been the case before. The policy also exempts armed agents working as couriers on an armored car. Additionally, the policy acknowledges that they can't prohibit possession of firearms on the property, and also does not threaten legal sanctions that don't exist (carry on a college campus is perfectly legal under PA law).
That being said - I find it interesting that they lump legal firearms in with prohibited offensive weapons, like switchblades and blackjacks - weapons that are already illegal to possess. I also think it is disturbing that PASSHE would define all their buildings as "sensitive". I don't understand what magically changes when I step off the sidewalk and into a campus classroom building, or what's different between the county library and the library on campus. I eat in restaurants where I am free to carry my firearm, but apparently the school dining hall is “sensitive” and possession of a firearm must be outlawed.

I've made the very personal decision to provide for my own safety in several ways. One of them is carrying a firearm for personal protection when legal. In addition to having a PA License To Carry Firearms, I've sought significant additional training, including becoming a certified firearms instructor. I don't advocate that everyone should make the same decision, but I believe that my personal safety and liberty are my responsibility. This personal responsibility is highlighted by the repeated court cases finding police have no legal duty to protect an individual citizen.

PASSHE makes this sound like a "safety" measure - but I don't understand why. Looking at a history of recent mass shootings, they all occur in areas where firearms are prohibited by rule or law. You'd think that such a bastion of education could recognize the pattern and that a mere rule, with no legal consequence, will make no difference in safety, except for the safety of a mass shooter, who knows that the rule-following populous isn't able to fight back effectively.

I’m asking for everyone’s help here – especially if you are, were, or are considering being a student at a PASSHE school. The Public Safety Task Force is taking comments at this email address: publicsafetytaskforce passhe edu – Please submit a comment expressing that this policy oversteps the goals of the Constitution of the Commonwealth, as well as going far beyond the laws set by the Commonwealth Legislature.

Interestingly, I also saw an earlier draft of the policy, dated July, 2013, as well as a letter that was attached to it, from the PASSHE Vice Chancellor for Labor Relations to members of the faculty bargaining unit (APSCUF). I find it disgusting that the letter from PASSHE recognizes the constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and then proceeds to tread all over that right. To quote the PA Constitution: "The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned." Some changes between the 7/2013 draft and the current draft include some adjustments in scope – The policy now exempts armored car guards, LEO’s carrying under LEOSA, and “bodyguards or security details” with the permission of the University President or designee. The current draft also clarifies allowable uses for weapons or “weapon-like props” as related to university-sanctioned events.


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