Are Guns Coming to Community College Campuses?

Are Guns Coming to Community College Campuses?
In light of a string of school shootings in recent months, a number of community colleges are considering arming security officers on campus. What do students and faculty think of the idea?

Recent tragedies at schools nationwide have caused many community colleges to take a serious look at their security policies. At the forefront is whether guards and officers on community college campuses should be allowed to carry firearms. While some college administrators make good arguments for the allowance of weapons, others have equally compelling arguments against the practice. These community colleges offer a small sample of the schools that are grappling with the issue of guns on their campuses.

Holyoke Community College Heeding Massachusetts Report

Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts is looking in-depth at the possibility of arming campus guards after a report on campus violence prevention was released for Massachusetts schools. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education report recommends that “sworn campus police officers should be armed and trained in the use of personal or specialized firearms.” The report was compiled in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007 and another incident at Northern Illinois University in 2008.

According to mLive, the Holyoke Community College Campus Safety Committee is now considering arming the school’s nine full-time police officers. All employees, including Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Academy graduates or the Massachusetts State Police Training Academy, are not allowed to carry guns on campus. However, after a lockdown situation on the college campus in February, the question of armed guards to handle active shooter situations was once again raised.

The Holyoke Community College Campus Safety Committee was formed by the chairwoman of the Board of Trustees for the college, Helen Caulton-Harris. Caulton-Harris created the ad hoc committee to review the proposal involving armed guards. Once the review is completed, the committee is slated to make an official recommendation to the board. If the college decides to arm its security staff, it will join at least seven other colleges and universities across the state that have taken similar action.

This video reports on the debate on guns on college campuses.

Lockdown Leads Manchester Community College to Consider Armed Guards

Another campus lockdown at Manchester Community College in Connecticut has prompted similar talks at that school. According to My Record Journal, the president of Manchester, Gina Glickman, is leading the push to arm the campus police at the school. Long before the recent lockdown, Glickman worked with police chiefs from other schools across Connecticut to create stronger police forces that were better prepared for emergency and active shooter situations.

“Why do you have a sworn police department if you’re not going to treat them as a sworn police department?” Glickman was reported asking at My Record Journal. “I mean, what’s the advantage of a police department that’s not fully able to discharge their duty?”

In the recent lockdown at Manchester Community College, some students were stuck in classrooms and offices for as long as six hours while police searched buildings for a potential shooter. The lockdown occurred after a student reported seeing a man on the campus with a handgun in the pocket of his pants. No weapons were found during the search, and the only injury occurred to a police officer when his gun discharged and shot him in the foot.

Rhode Island Changes Statewide Ban on Armed Guards

Community colleges and four-year schools in Rhode Island had no choice but to leave security guards unarmed under state law – the only law in the United States. Recently, that law was overturned by the State Board of Education, allowing police officers on college campuses to carry firearms for the first time. Individual schools will now be allowed to determine whether they want their campus police to be armed, according to a report in the Providence Journal.

This video reports on the presence of guns on college campuses.

Carroll Community College to Arm Campus Guards

The Carroll County Times reports that Carroll Community College in Maryland will also be arming its campus police force shortly. According to the report, the Carroll Community College Board of Trustees voted to approve arming Special Police Officers on the college campus. The vote came after discussions between school officials, the sheriff’s office, and the Maryland State Police.

“We believe that having armed Special Police Officers will better protect the college community and our officers during critical situations on campus,” Alan Schuman, Executive Vice President of Administration, said in the Carroll County Times.

The school boasts six full-time campus police officers who can carry firearms while working on campus. Most of these employees are retired police officers with multiple years of experience in law enforcement. They have also received training with the local sheriff’s office.

In the past, these officers would be armed for a short period of time during incidents where an imminent threat was perceived. Under the new program, officers can carry firearms full-time while working on campus. The new program should be instituted within months and will require ongoing training of the officers through the sheriff’s office.

Campus security officers will have jurisdiction over burglaries and other minor crimes involving property. They will also handle complaints of disorderly conduct and alcohol violations. The sheriff's office will continue to handle violent crimes and drug violations.

As concerns continue over school safety, more community colleges are looking closer at how to keep their students safe on campus. Many schools are now turning to armed security guards as an effective way to handle active, dangerous situations that have been consistently rising in recent years.

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