Aiming for increased campus safety

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November 12, 2010

1:23 AM

Students at the College of William and Mary can agree that it sometimes feels as though we live in a retirement community instead of a college campus. Crime rates around the City of Williamsburg and the College are so low that police officers have plenty of spare time to write unwelcome parking tickets. Even though this geriatric-ward level of excitement creates a certain amount of boredom, it contributes to the feeling of a safe community.

Unfortunately, this safe community is not impermeable. Early in the semester, four students at the College were robbed at gunpoint. The College is not the only state school in Virginia to have problems with armed robbery. Only an hour away, students at Old Dominion University are requesting permission to carry guns on campus in order to defend themselves.

Williamsburg is a very different city than Norfolk, however, and college officials must therefore ask themselves whether or not such drastic measures are really necessary. Last semester, two students were victims of armed robbery on campus and in the surrounding area. While these crimes were surely frightening for the students involved, they do not seem to warrant permitting firearms on a college campus.

Students at ODU have access to safety resources comparable to those used by students at the College. They have the same blue light system that allows students to send out a campus-wide distress call. Like the College, ODU has both safe ride and campus escort programs that allow students to be safe when walking at night. They go even further than the College by extending the daily hours of availability for these services from 5:30 p.m. until 2:30 a.m.

The robbery that occurred on the ODU campus happened at 8:15 p.m. The majority of students believe this to be an acceptable time to walk across campus alone, creating a feeling of general activity on campus. This begs the question of how no one saw this armed robbery happening — or called for help.

But allowing students to carry guns on campus would not be effective for defense. Virginia state law requires a person to be 21 or older in order to obtain a concealed weapons permit. Because most students on college campuses are under the age of 21, they would be left completely defenseless on a then — heavily armed campus.

After the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech that resulted in the deaths of 32 victims, colleges should be cautious of permitting weapons on campus. Banning firearms will not necessarily keep them away from campuses entirely, but it will prove more beneficial than allowing students and faculty to carry guns on campus, which would promote a type of vigilante police force.

Ultimately, college officials must realize that allowing students to carry weapons on campus will only add to the crime rates. While most students would never use a firearm except in the case of self-defense, providing weapons to people who could use them for other purposes is nothing short of reckless.

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