Students concerned gun laws jeopardize campus safety

Kari Petrie

Psychology senior Reiko Hirai, an international student from Japan, said she chose to attend the University because she felt Minnesota was safe – unlike the rest of the United States, which she viewed as more dangerous.

But Hirai said she is more concerned about her security since a new law makes it easier for Minnesotans to carry handguns and the University lacks a policy prohibiting faculty, staff and visitors from bringing guns on campus.

“I think that’s awful,” she said of the Minnesota Citizens Personal Protection Act, which provides uniformed standards in granting permits for carrying handguns.

Other University community members are divided on the possible effects the new law might have on campus.

Medical School student Todd Gengerke said he is not concerned about negative effects of the new law.

“I feel safe on this campus,” Gengerke said. “If the state decides the law is acceptable, the University should follow it.”

Computer science senior Bonnie Kim said she was surprised to learn anyone can bring guns on campus – whether they are faculty, staff or visitors.

“I don’t like that at all,” she said. “This is an educational environment – there shouldn’t be guns here.”

Many University officials said they feel the same.

“The understanding in the University community has always been that guns do not have a place in our buildings and at University functions,” University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said.

University President Bob Bruininks said he agreed with those sentiments.

According to the law, private businesses can post a sign prohibiting guns at every building entrance. Guns can be carried into public buildings except for correctional facilities, state hospitals, county jails and courthouses, and the State Capitol grounds.

Although the University has not taken visible action, other state and public institutions – including the Hennepin County Government Center and the Mall of America -have posted signs alerting patrons they are entering a gun-free zone.

The University’s student conduct code prohibits students from bringing guns on campus and to off-campus University events, such as those held at the Metrodome, Deputy General Counsel William Donohue said.

Currently, some Facilities Management employees are the only University staff prohibited from carrying guns while on duty, Rotenberg said. There are no policies related to faculty or visitors.

“That’s disappointing,” Hirai said.

The University is considering several policy changes to address the issue, Rotenberg said. One policy would create a gun-free campus, prohibiting everyone – students, faculty, staff and visitors – from bringing guns on campus, he said.

Another option might be more specific by addressing particular groups of people or particular events, he said.

The University Board of Regents will further discuss the issue at its June board meeting. However, they might not take action until July, Donohue said.

Kari Petrie covers the Board of Regents and administration. She welcomes comments at [email protected]