Relief was expressed by some members of the College of William and Mary community when a proposed Virginia General Assembly bill that would have overturned the College’s gun policy was shot down.
House Bill 91, sponsored by Delegate Bob Marshall, R-13, would have allowed full-time faculty members at public universities who possess state concealed handgun permits to carry weapons on campuses regardless of university gun policies.
“I don’t think we want to give them [College faculty] guns,” President of the Faculty Assembly and marketing professor Tom Mooradian said. “If we give the faculty guns the only sure bet is on Sentara stock — imagine the spike in inadvertent flesh wounds to the buttocks.”
The College’s gun policy, revised in October, currently restricts everyone except law-enforcement officers and university-authorized persons from carrying guns in any campus facility.
“I don’t think that right [the right to bear arms] is an unlimited right,” Vice President for Administration Anna Martin said. “The laws of the state of Virginia prohibit employees, prohibit state employees, from carrying guns in the work place. This is our work place.”
Both Mooradian and William and Mary Police Chief Donald Challis expressed confidence that College faculty did not feel suppressed by the restrictions in the current gun policy.
“There is not any faculty jumping up to say, ‘I want to be armed,’” Challis said. “A greater presence of guns on campus does not correlate to a safer campus. Crime can always happen.”
Instead, some faculty members expressed discontent with Marshall’s proposal.
“Regrettably, a majority in the two houses of the Virginia General Assembly believes that guns are like handkerchiefs — anyone should be able to carry one, at any time, and at any place,” government professor and former Williamsburg Democratic House of Delegates member Greg Grayson said.
To some, it boils down to politics.
“The reality is there are very few faculty members who have permits or who know how to handle a weapon, and if a wingnut decides to come on campus, faculty with guns is not going to make a big
difference,” Mooradian said.
Others felt the delegate was overstepping his bounds.
“I think it was irresponsible for a delegate to not look at the university specifically before making a gun policy that would apply to them,” Student Assembly President Kaveh Sadeghian ’12 said.
A faculty member’s carrying a gun on campus, Challis explained, could complicate police response to a potential threat.
“Campuses are safer places, safer than your house,” Challis said. “Violent incidents on campus are tragic but uncommon, and they are not a reason to increase the number of weapons on a campus. What we tell anybody who will listen is that we should focus our efforts on threat assessment and resources that already exist.”
Compromise was the word the Young Democrats President Katie Deabler ’12 used to defend criticisms of Marshall’s proposal.
“A lot of people are concentrated on a campus, and it is an educational environment where people expect to be assured they are safe,” Deabler said. “As college students … we are going to have some rights curtailed and some rights granted.”
Some students who identify with the Republican party, like Tyler Johnson ’13, also opposed the delegate’s attempt to create a statewide policy.
“It’s not the legislators’ place to tell campuses what their gun policies should be,” he said.
Sadeghian said the thought of a gun on campus made him nervous, and he said the idea that guns should be permitted on campus is the first step down a slippery slope.
“When we don’t see people on a daily basis with a gun, we have a healthy environment,” Sadeghian said.
Even when Mooradian granted that trained gun carriers potentially could provide some measure of safety, he discounted the reasons why such people would bring a gun to campus.
“Someone who has an experience with weapons and really understands weapons, they understand situations where it is appropriate to have a gun,” Mooradian said. “Smarter students — students who actually know something about guns — know that a campus is no place to have a gun.”
There was disagreement about whether students or faculty carrying guns would be more dangerous. Challis said that young people with weapons tend be more problematic, while Sadegian said that guns pose danger no matter who wields them.
“Anyone who has ill intent with a gun is dangerous,” he said. “Age doesn’t divide who uses a gun at the end of the day.”