Campuses React To Recent String Of College Violence

This story was written by Erin Kelly, The Northeastern News
Recent shootings on and around campuses nationwide have caused many states to reconsider their weapon laws and college security.

Arizona's senate is considering a bill allowing concealed weapons to be legal on public school campuses, from elementary schools to universities.

The bill was designed to prevent massacres like the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech, where one armed student killed 32 people. Having trained and armed gun owners on campuses could combat a gunman faster than law officials could arrive, proponants of the bill have argued.

Currently only Utah has passed a law allowing concealed weapons on campuses.

Jim Ferrier, associate director of public safety, said that in states like Arizona, Colorado and Utah, colleges cannot prohibit guns on campus because there are already state laws allowing citizens to carry guns. The "concealment" bill allows a person to put a jacket on over the weapon, therefore hiding their weapon from others' views, Ferrier said.

In states like Arizona, "gun ownership is like owning an Ipod here [in Boston]," Ferrier said. People use guns for social activities, like hunting on weekends. Yet in urban settings, like the Boston area, the situation is different, and weapons are not seen in the same light, Ferrier said.

"In Massachusetts the law is very strict, and states even if you have a permit for a gun, the permit is absolutely invalid on college campuses," Ferrier said. "It is against the law and campus policy. I see no likelihood of a movement to modify the law of allowing possession of a gun on campus other than [for] law enforcement people."

Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, a Democrat, said allowing concealed, or any, weapons on campuses is not an effective way to end violence.

"We must bring greater safety to the nation's communities and more sanity to the nation's gun laws. Allowing concealed weapons on campus is not an answer," Kennedy said in a statement to The News.

To combat violence on and around Northeastern, the Northeastern Division of Public Safety has adopted the same policies and strategies adopted by law enforcement across the country following the 1999 Columbine shootings, Ferrier said.

"All our officers have been trained in what is referred to as Active Shooter response," Ferrier said. "We have also done joint training in this procedure with the Boston police. We drill and train at least once a year on this specific area and all our officers had a full day of training on it earlier this month."

The nightmare at Virginia Tech made it clear that tragedy can strike anywhere, including college campuses, and the state of Massachusetts owes it to college students and their families to recognize the early warning signs and act before violence occurs, Kennedy said.

"As part of the Higher Education Act passed by the Senate last year, we created a new student safety grant program to help colleges and universities improve campus safety and emergency response. I'm hopeful that we can continue to work together across party lines to reduce gun violence, solve gun crimes, protect our public safety officers and do all that we can to make our communities and campuses safer," Kennedy said.

Jessica Gramuglia, a middler music industry major, said although she feels safe on campus, there are always ways to improve security.

"There are probably lots of ways to make the campus security safer, like being more strict about getting into dorms, for example, but other than that, off the top of my head, I cant think of anything," Gramuglia said.

Despite the recent violence around certain campuses, Christopher Celentano, a sophomore music industry major, said he feels safe on campus.

"These threats and shooting do not change the way I feel about security on campus," Celentano said. "I've always felt secure and safe on campus and I believe that if one of these terrible incidents occurred on our campus it would be put to a stop very quickly."
© 2008 The Northeastern News via U-WIRE