SPSCC student and U.S. Army veteran Matt Staples brought his assault rifle to school May 24 to display at a veterans event at SPSCC before Memorial Day weekend.
He first checked his gun with security officers, who then removed the gun’s bolt to make sure the gun would not fire. Though Staples thought it was a good idea, college policy did not require him to check with security first.
The current policy only states that people can’t show their weapon in a way “that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons.” Beyond that, only state laws apply on concealed and regulated weapons permits.
Since the national focus on campus shootings over the last several years, faculty senate members are talking about instituting a campus weapons ban, though the senate has not come to an official stance, said Kathy Harrigan, a faculty senator actively part of the senate’s research into the issue.
College President Gerald Pumphrey said he would prefer a weapons ban to occur at the state level for all state schools if the school is to adopt a weapons ban.
Pumphrey said, “I’m not being facetious when I say that it is already illegal to shoot people.” He said public safety is a top priority, but he is not convinced that a campus policy will do anything to increase safety. He added, “There is a legitimate point of view on the other side.”
Staples, a former NRA member, said he supports a weapons ban. Only security officers need to carry weapons on campus, because school is for learning, not being armed, he said.
“I can make a policy [in my house]: you can’t have a weapon there; you can’t have a weapon there. It’s my house. I can understand that,” he said, “My house is my government, but the school makes their policies; I follow their rules; it’s that simple. And, it is for safety.”
“Some people are simply afraid of the sight of a weapon,” Pumphrey said, “even if it was just laying there on the couch.”
Student Stephany Parkin said she believes the second amendment is important, because “this country was founded on the concept of revolution,” and citizens need to balance the power of the military state. However, she said that she strongly prefers people to not “randomly” carry weapons on campus because she doesn’t want to get shot, so she supports a weapons ban.
Drafting professor Forrest Huff said, “I choose not to carry any more for personal reasons. However, I don’t believe anything in the universe so strongly that I would want to impose it on other people.”
Harrigan said she respects both people’s right to bear arms and people’s right to be safe, but “Right now, I am not convinced that allowing weapons, permitted or illegal, benefits this academic community.”
Student Michael Krutz said he supports a weapons ban, because there is not enough of a real threat on campus for people to carry weapons. “It’s a place for education, not for violence.”
A statement by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators said, “There is no credible evidence to suggest that the presence of students carrying concealed weapons would reduce violence on our college campuses.”
The statement then cited studies suggesting that, without a weapons ban, campus violence would increase.
SPSCC Director of Security Lonnie Hatman said he takes no official stance on the issue, because his job is to enforce the policies in place, not to decide what those policies are. He said the security department would rely heavily on the police to enforce a weapons ban, since security officers do not carry weapons.
“We could have a very secure campus, but no one would want to go to school here, because you would have gates and metal detectors, and it would be like going into an airport,” he said, “It’s a difficult policy, if you have it, to try to enforce.”
Hatman said that in his 30 years of law enforcement service, he has seen evidence that concealed-carry policies like the current campus policy initially increase the crime rate, but the rate goes down after some time.
He said the college sees few weapons-related incidents because of its size and the educational nature of the campus. He said the last incident that he could recall happened about two weeks ago, but his department knew nothing of it until after the police handled it.
A student allegedly threatened to shoot another student. No one reported seeing a weapon, but someone called the police, who then contacted the people off campus and informed campus security afterward.
Former Faculty Senate President Carlea McAvoy said she first became concerned about the weapons policy last year when some students and faculty reported a student carrying a gun who was “behaving strangely.” Campus security couldn’t do anything about it, because the student had a right to carry, McAvoy said.
Faculty senate members then engaged in a fact-finding mission. They found 30 of 34 Washington state community and technical colleges impose a campus weapons ban. McAvoy said a few SPSCC faculty members also reported that informal classroom polls asking if students were “packing” sometimes revealed several students carried weapons into class.
Current Faculty Senate President Kathryn Clancy said the faculty senate will consider putting out a campus survey and seeking comments from the student senate and classified staff to decide how best to go ahead with a potential weapons ban.
A new student enrolled for the summer who preferred to identify himself only as “Sketch” said he opposes a weapons ban, because people at this school “should be stable and at least somewhat mature enough to be able to come onto campus with any number of weapons and not hurt each other with them.”
Student Michael Chapman said, “As long as you have a license, I don’t really care as long as it’s safe.”
Student Senator for Legislative Affairs Matthew Shrader said he gives the “utmost” importance to feeling safe, and for some people feeling safe means carrying a weapon, while for others feeling safe means having a weapons ban. He said, the matter “deserves heavy consideration,” and we should find out how most of the campus would feel safe.