September 30, 2011
The Board of Visitors unanimously approved a policy implementing tighter gun control on campus the week before the National Rifle Association held an event on campus.
The new regulations would prohibit all students, visitors, faculty and staff members from bringing weapons, even if they are licensed, into any academic or administrative building, student residence hall, student life building, or dining or athletic facility. Guns would also be prohibited at all university events and any vessel on university property. Licensed weapons still will be permitted on campus grounds, however.
“There are certain times when it is very inappropriate to have weapons on campus,” College of William and Mary Chief of Police Don Challis said. “We believe that [not having a stricter gun policy] is very inconsistent with the educational model and what we do here.”
The new weapon regulations were modeled after the gun control policy at another Virginia state school, George Mason University. The GMU policy was upheld by the Virginia Supreme Court earlier this year.
“When we thought we needed a weapons policy, we then watched what George Mason did to see how the Supreme Court would rule towards it. Once the Supreme Court passed the legislation, we modeled ours similarly,” Vice President for Administration Anna Martin said.
Current policy permits licensed guns on campus grounds. The new policy will permit Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets, law enforcement officers and colonial reenactors to carry weapons.
“State regulations [already] prohibit employees from possessing weapons on campus,” Martin said in a statement to the Virginia Gazette. “The faculty are not governed by those regulations. They are governed by the Faculty Handbook, which is silent on this subject.”
The most common crime on campus is larceny, and it typically involves those who do not attend the College. This low crime rate produces to a sense of security among students.
“I’ve never felt unsafe on this campus. I feel like William and Mary is such an open and welcoming place. I feel so comfortable in the William and Mary community that I would never second guess anyone I saw on campus,” Devyn Harris ’14 said.
Although NRA representatives said the event was not in reaction to the BOV’s ruling, their campus event Thursday focused around increasing student involvement in guns rights advocacy on campus. NRA Representative Miranda Bond presented to a group of students discussing gun rights and ways for students to get involved on and off campus.
“The intention is to get students involved on campus,” Bond said during her presentation. “There is some apathy amongst gun owners right now. There are almost 85 to 90 million gun owners today which means that a lot of people are not getting involved.”
Students in attendance were offered a free membership to the NRA on the spot and were given voter registration packets. Bond highlighted a number of ways for students to get involved, including starting a club focused on concealed carry on campus and Second Amendment rights, working or volunteering with the NRA and voting in the upcoming election.
“Hopefully you guys have been armed with the facts today,” Bond said.
In response to the recent ordinance passed regarding gun restrictions, College Republican member Chris Komatsu ’14 disagreed with the BOV’s decision.
“I think it only makes us that more defenseless,” Komatsu said. “We have no means of defending ourselves if, say, a Virginia Tech situation ever occurred here. We would be at the mercy of the police department.”
College Republican President Tyler Johnson ’13 agreed.
“In school, I think that you should be allowed,” Johnson said. “It goes back to a lot of the things we were saying about Second Amendment rights. We still have tons of battles about exceptions for freedom of speech, but I think they should generally be hands off of that.”
During the presentation, Bond discussed concealed carry, which would allow students of age with proper qualifications to have guns on campus. A student group promoting concealed carry on campus exists at the Marshall Wythe School of Law school, but there is no organization in the undergraduate school.
“First of all, it isn’t as if everyone is going to be carrying a gun on campus, it is only going to be people who get a concealed carry permit from the state, who is 21 years old, so that would be mostly juniors and seniors,” Komatsu said.
While concealed carry on campus would allow students to carry guns, Challis states that college campuses as they are right now are extremely safe without them.
“You are statistically safer on a college campus than you are anywhere else,” Challis said. “All college campuses have been proven safer than malls parks, streets — you name it. I’m happy that we will remain a gun-free campus. Honestly, I’m glad that I don’t remember the last time we had an incident, but now we can have the police department on solid legal ground if we ever have an issue.”
The official legislation is expected to pass at the Board of Visitors meetings in December.