Changing campus gun policy would face resistance from U

The Minnesota Student Association’s resolution’s chances in the Forum are slim, if recent violence is any indicator.

by JP Leider

Although the Minnesota Student Association won’t consider requesting a change to University policy for a few weeks, the proposal to lift the campus firearm ban will likely hit a dead-end even if it passes Forum.

At Tuesday’s MSA meeting, Forum members heard University President Bob Bruininks discuss myriad issues, one of which was the resolution that would ask the administration to change the Student Conduct Code to allow students to carry licensed handguns on campus.

Bruininks made his distaste for the resolution apparent.

“It won’t be just a hard sell, I think it’s a nonstarter with me,” he said. “It raises the ante and prospects of conflicts and violence on our campus.”

Bruininks said the University does not have the “kind of culture” that would support conceal and carry on campus.

“We can argue about it, you can pass resolutions, but I won’t support it and the Board of Regents will vote 12-0 against it – maybe you’ll get one vote,” he said. “I just don’t think it’s the kind of thing that fits into the academic culture of the University of Minnesota.”

Bruininks cited several endeavors the University has taken up in recent years to increase safety on and around campus, including looking to put more police officers on the street.

Although August’s crime statistics stirred up concern in the University community, the University administration says crime on campus is comparable to last year.

The University Police Department’s September crime statistics support the administration’s assertion, although off-campus crime has increased and is not listed in UMPD statistics.

MSA Speaker Tom Meyer, the resolution’s author, said Bruininks’ thoughts on the issue were “interesting,” if not angering.

All MSA can do is voice its opinion in any situation, regardless of the University administration’s opinion, Meyer said.

He doesn’t expect University administration to act on the resolution even if it should pass Forum, but there is importance in its symbolic value, he said.

The resolution’s chances in Forum are slim, if recent events are any indicator – a similar resolution presented to the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, MSA’s counterpart, was withdrawn due in part to strong opposition.

Jerry Rinehart, vice provost for student affairs, said the resolution, which also calls for changing the conduct code to allow pepper spray, confuses University policy on defensive measures.

Pepper spray already is allowed on campus, but only for defensive situations, he said.

The University is not interested in overturning the campus ban on guns, Rinehart said.

“It seems like a political issue that some folks are interested in but it isn’t focused on campus safety,” he said.

Rinehart said student voice is important even if the University does not follow student government recommendations.

“We certainly do pay attention, but that doesn’t mean we necessarily do what the resolution might ask us to do,” he said.

Hestness opts out of debate

As crime on and near campus continues to be an issue, University groups are getting into the discussion.

The University’s Parliamentary Debate Society hosted a debate Tuesday evening that focused in part on conceal-and-carry laws.

University Police Chief Greg Hestness was slated to participate in the debate, but withdrew when the topic changed from general public safety to being specifically on firearms, he said.

Hestness said he would not debate the regents’ policy, though he supports the ban personally and professionally.

As theft is the biggest issue on campus – with 516 thefts occurring so far this year – allowing firearms could exacerbate the problem, he said.

“It’s bad enough to lose laptops; I would hate to see firearms added to that list,” he said.

Andrew Rothman, executive director of the Minnesota Association of Defensive Firearm Instructors, questioned who from the University could debate the issue if not Hestness.

Rothman said statistics suggest the most effective way to resist a violent attack is a firearm.

“It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but for the University to forbid Ö the most basic of human rights, the right to be safe, is unconscionable,” he said.