November 7, 2013
Firearms are not allowed on campus. But that might change in the near future.
In order to form greater consistency between state universities, the Pa. State System of Higher Education is currently drafting its own weapons policy, according to Kenn Marshall, PASSHE’s media relations manager.
This policy may allow students, faculty and staff members of state-owned universities to carry weapons on campus grounds. Though the language of this policy is not yet fully developed, Marshall said the goal is to “help ensure the safety of students and others on campus.”
A task force, developed in April, studied aspects of campus safety and security and held several meetings over the summer to present their recommendations to the Board of Governors. The Board is deliberating the best way to seek further public opinion on the matter.
“If a new policy is developed, it likely would not be voted on until at least January and would not be implemented until fall 2014. For now, the issue remains under review,” Marshall said via an email interview.
Though PASSHE does not have a set-in-stone policy right now, its “model policy” basically states that any student, faculty or staff member in legal possession of a weapon may not bring said weapon on or into “sensitive areas.” The draft defines sensitive areas as:
“All PASSHE buildings or any sporting, entertainment, recreational, or educational event at PASSHE facilities or property or sponsored by a university. In addition to traditional classroom events, educational events include commencements, assemblies, outdoor class meetings, field trips, camps, and other similar activities. Also, other areas as prohibited by law including daycare centers and elementary and/or secondary schools and grounds. PASSHE buildings include: university academic, athletic, administrative, health care, or student residence buildings; dining facilities; and student union or recreation centers.”
The full model policy can be found at ragingchickenpress.org.
Outside of these designated
sensitive areas, legal possession of a weapon on campus may be fair game, as state campuses may have flexibility with the policy.
“If a systemwide policy is adopted, it will apply to all of the campuses. The current recommendations of the task force do allow for each campus some flexibility to meet their specific needs,” Marshall said.
Some LHU students aware of the proposed policy seem unhappy with the potential changes to Lock Haven’s current weapons policy.
“Based on the cognitive capacity I’ve seen people exhibit around campus… it is clear that people don’t have the mental capacity to hold a weapon on campus without using it for incorrect purposes,” said junior Jess Hainley, a psychology major.
Currently, Lock Haven’s weapons policy is clear: No student, faculty or staff member may carry a weapon on campus. Those who hunt or use firearms for other recreational purposes may register and house their weapons with Public Safety.
There will be no changes to LHU’s policy until after PASSHE releases its official policy, if the policy is created in the first place, according to Public Safety.
“The policy we have in effect now will stay in effect,” said Paul Altieri, director of Public Safety.
Anyone caught with a weapon on campus grounds will be asked to house the weapon with Public Safety. Anyone who declines will be asked to leave school property and, if the person fails to do so, he may be cited for trespassing. If the person cited is a student, he will be referred to Student Life for further action.
“To attend or work for the university is to agree to abide by its policies,” Altieri said.
Regardless of any policy that might be instated, state laws take precedence. In Pa., one must be 18 years or older to legally own a firearm, according to pafoa.org. One must also have a permit in order to carry a concealed weapon on one’s person or in a vehicle. However, according to the web site, state laws do not specify whether a permit is required to openly carry a weapon – making it “de-facto legal.”
Permits from all counties within the commonwealth must be recognized throughout the state, according to the web site. Pennsylvania also recognizes permits from certain other states. A full list can be found at pafoa.org.
Again, PASSHE does not have a definite policy in place at the moment, but is looking for public opinion on the matter at hand. Based on these opinions, a policy may be voted on in January. If the vote is positive, the policy will not be implemented until fall of 2014.