Out of all colleges in Washington, South Puget Sound Community College is the only known school that allows guns on campus.
Although Washington law largely prohibits guns in both elementary and secondary schools, it makes no mention of college campuses. Most Washington colleges have policies prohibiting guns on college grounds.
Director of Security Lonnie Hatman said SPSCC’s gun policy is an old one.
“It has been the same as long as I know,” he said.
Criminal justice professor Warren McLeod is a proponent of SPSCC’s gun policy. He has a concealed carrying of a weapon (CCW) permit, and owns many firearms. He said he carries for personal safety, and he said that the campus’ policy makes SPSCC a safer place.
“Putting guns in the hands of responsible gun owners, plus providing training for them, helps us be safer,” he said.
McLeod said he believes in not only allowing people to be armed, but in properly training them to handle their weapons. He said, “All citizens should have to go through qualifications.”
Sociology professor Eric Chase is less supportive of the gun policy. While he is a gun owner and a strong supporter of second amendment rights, he said he isn’t comfortable with people bringing guns to the classroom.
“It isn’t a matter of safety; it’s about whether we’re setting up the classroom for education or intimidation,” Chase said. He said having students armed with weapons will stifle class discussions and intimidate other students. “[A student] may not want to talk because the person they’re debating has a glock strapped to their hip,” he said.
Pumphrey has been quoted as saying, “I’m not being facetious when I say that it is already illegal to shoot people.”
Pumphrey’s retirement in February is fast approaching however, and it is uncertain where his replacement, Timothy Stokes, will stand.
When Tim Stokes, SPSCC’s new President starting on Feb. 1, was asked for his opinion on SPSCC’s gun policy, he said that he has not had enough time on campus to get a good enough idea of what he thinks is best for the school.
“I believe it is important for me to have much more information before forming an opinion on something as volatile as gun control policy,” said Stokes.
Chase said it is time for SPSCC to have an open dialogue about the current policy. He said, “There are a lot of people who don’t want to be around guns. This is a school, not a gun club.”
Student Matthew Stidham said he disagrees with the policy as well. “I think we are running a horrible risk,” said Stidham. He said SPSCC is endangering students with the policy and should ban guns on campus. Far from feeling safer, Stidham said, “I feel like I’m more in danger.”
McLeod said a stricter policy would only make things more dangerous.
He said, “A shooter won’t care about the school’s policy, whether they allow guns or not; they are just there to murder. The shooting that happened at the mall in Oregon was actually stopped by a citizen who pulled out a gun and pointed it at the shooter. That didn’t get much news coverage, though.”
Student Kyle Black said the same. “People that want to shoot us are going to come and shoot us whether we allow guns on campus or not,” he said. Black, although not currently a gun owner, said he may decide to purchase a firearm. “I would like to be able to make a difference before the police showed up if someone came at me with an armed weapon.”
McLeod said his biggest problem is with Washington’s current CCW laws. “We need to have complete mental health background checks, because right now, you just check a box saying that you don’t have any mental health problems,” he said. He believes that a system requiring thorough background checks, as well as regular practice with firearms, would do far more for college safety than the banning of guns.
Chase said those who carry should be properly trained in the use of firearms. “On the other hand, I don’t trust the government, and I don’t really want them to have a long list of who owns guns,” he said.