Most students heading to college are consumed with the adjustment to dorm life, the sometimes complex maze of the registration process and the cheapest place to purchase textbooks and supplies. However, recent events on campuses across the country, particularly the tragic massacre that occurred at Virginia Technical College just a few short years ago, have them considering the safety of their schools as well. In response to those concerns, some colleges are thinking about arming the security guards that currently patrol the campus. Others may allow students and faculty to carry their own firearms as a means of self-defense in the event of an attack. We will take a look at both issues, and why community colleges are taking such measures to protect their students and staff.
Armed Officers may be Coming to Illinois College
Illinois Valley Community College is just one of the community colleges across the country considering the option of arming security guards on campus. IVCC president Jerry Corcoran told the News Tribune that the upcoming retirement of current Safety Services Director Ken Sangston prompted the idea. Corcoran said, "We're seeing a trend among community colleges across the state where they have armed security. IVCC is like a small city…so if there's an opportunity to raise the bar for security we should explore it."
IVCC currently employs four full-time and six part-time security guards. At this time, all of them are unarmed. If they decide to arm some of their staff, the college may look at hiring retired police officers or contracting with a private security firm.
"At this point I can't say what the answer is or what we are going to do," Corcoran added. "I want our campus to be as safe as possible for our students, faculty, staff and visitors."
Michigan Following Suit
In Michigan, some community colleges are considering similar steps to protect their campuses. Jackson Community College is moving forward with its plan to have armed security personnel, according to a report at mlive.com. This step is being taken despite the fact that the school has seen no violent crime on the campus in recent years. A spokesperson for the college, Cindy Allen, told mlive.com, "We have a president that's very concerned about the safety and security of our employees and our students. And he wants to make sure we've made every effort to make this as secure a campus as possible and that everyone feels comfortable going there."
The college says it will hire a part-time security director – possibly a retired police officer. Employees working under the director will be required to meet firearms training and certification requirements before they are authorized to carry guns. The college also stated that it is probable that only one employee will carry a gun at any one time on campus.
Another Michigan school considering the addition of armed security guards is Monroe County Community College. The current security officers that work at this school are actually asking for the right to carry firearms, according to a report at The Agora, the campus newspaper. Randy Daniels, vice president of Student and Information Services, told The Agora, "I really don't have any other information other than I have been asked to investigate the possibility of arming our security force." Last year, Jackson reported 39 burglaries and 13 larcenies. The crime rate at the community college is drastically lower, with only a handful of minor crimes on record.
Colleges Allowing Students and Staff to Carry Guns
In addition to the community colleges considering the arming of their security staff, other campuses are thinking about letting students and staff take defensive matters into their own hands by allowing them to carry firearms on campus. The Idaho house currently approved a bill that allows community colleges and state universities to formulate their own policies on the right to bear arms on campus. Sponsor of the bill, Representative Erik Simpson, told Reuters, "It's a basic human right to be able to protect yourself from those who attempt to do you harm."
The Arizona senate has also overwhelmingly approved a bill that allows people to carry guns on college campuses, according to a report at The Republic. The bill only allows for guns to be carried on sidewalks and streets, not in buildings or classrooms. Supporters of the bill say that students and staff will now be able to defend themselves from an attack while waiting for police to respond. Opponents believe the bill would create more dangerous situations on campus. The bill now goes to the Arizona House for possible approval.
Texas appears to be another state in favor of gun rights on college campuses, as a bill that allows students to carry firearms on college campuses passed the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee to refer the measure to the full house. The initial vote was split across party lines, with Republicans unanimously favoring the bill and Democrats opposing it.
Texas has become a major battleground for the rights to bear arms at college, due to its pro-gun stance and enormous college system, according to a report at the Houston Chronicle. More than half the lawmakers in the state favor the bill, and Governor Rick Perry is expected to sign it into law.
Guns appear to be making their way to college campuses across the country, but it remains to be seen whether the addition of firearms really will make these school safer - or a more volatile environment for the students who attend them.