UPDATED - Since House Bill 250 was adopted in May, GC is doing its part to make sure students, faculty and staff on campus understand when and where they can carry weapons on campus.
“We have guidance from the board office for how to proceed with handling this,” said Don Challis, GC’s chief of police. “The interpretation of this bill is not ours. It comes from the board.”
At the information session, Challis covered various areas of the new legislation and helped attendees understand when and where it is appropriate to carry concealed weapons on campus.
Permit holders are not allowed to carry in areas like athletic facilities, faculty offices and residence halls.
Classrooms with high school students are also off limits for students or staff members who wish to carry. Challis also said it is the permit holders’ responsibility to check with the registrar’s office to find out if it is legal for them to carry in each of their classrooms.
Along with this, Challis also informed session attendees what to do if they encounter someone carrying a weapon and feel unsafe.
“This hasn’t happened yet, but if somebody is uncertain about a weapon in a classroom and calls us, we’re going to ask what type of weapon is it, how’s it being displayed and what the person with the weapon is doing,” said Challis.
“We want to focus on behaviors and not so much the presence of a weapon.”
With GC’s increased effort to make sure people know where they can carry on campus, Challis said the issue has not been as prevalent as many people thought it was going to be before the school year began.
“I don’t know if there are more or fewer guns on campus this year. If there is a higher or lower number, I’d imagine the number is probably insignificant,” said Challis. “Thus far, nobody has had an issue, and we haven’t had anybody call in a complaint or concern.”
But even though GC is doing its part to educate those on campus about the new bill, some faculty and students still feel uneasy about the legislation.
“I don’t think that guns are conducive to a campus environment where we come together and share knowledge in a peaceful and collegial environment,” said Aran MacKinnon, chair of the history department. “Nothing in history says that more guns reduce violence. In fact, the opposite is true, as more guns means more people are likely to get hurt.”
Hali Sofala-Jones, an English and rhetoric professor at GC, echoed MacKinnon’s concern about the new legislation.
“I don’t feel that it makes me any safer,” said Sofala-Jones. “The bill hasn’t impacted me personally yet, but I feel the idea for it is unnecessary.”
Steven Vick, a senior geography and rhetoric major, was also somewhat opposed to the bill for different reasons.
“I feel as though there are certain situations where having a gun on campus can lead to violence if someone gets upset in class or just has a bad day and decides to wield a gun,” Vick said. “I’m also against it because in power-based violence situations like abusive relationships, a person could use it to kill someone or force them into doing something they don’t want to do.”
Lauren Kirby, a senior liberal studies major, echoed Vick’s sentiment, saying she feels threatened by strangers wielding guns on campus.
“In a situation where there would be an armed assailant, it would not be logical to add more guns to the situation,” Kirby said, “because the people trying to help could make mistakes and other bystanders could be affected.”
Despite apprehension from some, others on campus, like senior Alex Hammer, are not kicking against the new legislation.
“I think campus carry is a good idea,” said Hammer, a management major. “It will be a deterrent to any possible active shooter.”
Like Hammer, James Baugh, a math professor, has no problem with the new legislation, but he does not think its passage will bring major change at GC.
“In terms of impact, I think this bill will have zero impact, and it won’t change much in terms of behavior,” said Baugh. “The Constitution gives people the right to bear arms with the Second Amendment, so I’m for it. But I do think politicians should spend more time on other issues and not waste time with things like this because I don’t think we’ll see any change.”
According to Challis, Baugh’s belief about the bill having little impact on the campus has held true thus far in the school year.
“The reality of it is we have a very traditional aged student population,” said Challis. “Most of our students are between 18 and 23, so we don’t have a lot of students who are 21 who want a permit that actually get a permit and want to carry with all the hurdles they have to go through.”
Even though some members of the GC community are firmly planted on both sides of the issue, there are still those who are not sure how to feel about the bill’s implementation.
“I’m on the fence about it,” said senior Eric Gould, a history and rhetoric major. “I feel like if someone wanted to bring a gun on campus, they would whether there is a law or not. But on the other hand, people would possibly be able to protect themselves if there were a shooter on campus.”
Even with so many differing opinions about the bill on campus, Challis insisted that the issue has not been a big deal for anyone at GC this semester.
“From faculty, staff and students to registrar’s office, nobody has had any issues so far,” said Challis. “It’s just not the issue that people thought it was going to be.”