An increased amount of public shootings occurring all around the nation has spurred the argument over campus weapons policies. The most recent of these shootings occurred in our backyard, at Umpqua Community College, located in southwest Oregon. Christopher Harper-Mercer entered a classroom and immediately opened fire on a foggy October morning. Mercer forced students to identify their religious affiliations, specifically targeting Christians. In total, 10 people were killed and seven were wounded. Stories such as this are increasingly commonplace facilitating debate about South Puget Sound Community College’s own weapons policy.
Director of Safety and Security at SPSCC, Rob Shailor, has been with the college since 2014, and was recently promoted due to his exceptional approach in keeping the campus a comfortable place. In regard to the school’s weapons policy, Shailor says, “Our campus policy states that we will follow the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), which says that if you are a legally concealed pistol license holder you are permitted to carry in accordance with the law.”
Those who worry about the presence of guns on campus view this as a problem because, while some individuals are allowed to carry a concealed pistol on campus, if properly licensed, security is explicitly prohibited from carrying any type of lethal weapon. Shailor states, “We are not permitted to by law.” This RCW makes things particularly complicated on community and technical college campuses where the schools don’t have enough money to hire private security or create a campus police department, which are the only exceptions to the law.
SPSCC student David Troupe, a licensed concealed weapon carrier, weighs in on the controversy. Troupe says the Oregon tragedy affected him, “In a big way,” forcing him to consider his own conceal/carry practices. “That was about the time I started really heavily carrying on campus,” says Troupe. Troupe indicates that paranoia increases for students when a mass shooting occurs. Events such as the Umpqua shooting hit especially close to home for small colleges like SPSCC, which stands out in our state as one of the few schools that allow concealed weapons on campus.
College President Timothy Stokes believes that, “The policy recognizes the college’s best work to align our policy with state law.” Washington is one of a dwindling number of states that leave it up to individual institutions to decide what they would like their weapons policies to look like. In Stokes view, “It seems that recent events on community college campuses have upheld the research suggesting that campuses with armed security and those that allow concealed weapons by licensed carriers are able to respond to events [better].” This topic continues to be debated nationwide, with opposition contending that more guns equal more violence. Undoubtedly, as events like this continue to plague the headlines, more resources and time will be spent looking for an ‘ideal’ solution.
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