U gun policy will not soon change

University officials and the Board of Regents strongly agree on a no-gun policy.

Alex Robinson

Following the tragic shootings of 32 students and professors at Virginia Tech University, gun law discussions have flared up across the country.

Some believe stricter gun laws will help prevent violent crimes, while others believe people should carry guns if they want.

In a recent poll conducted by MSN-Zogby, 59 percent of Americans polled believed stricter gun laws would not help

prevent tragedies, while 36 percent said stricter gun laws would help prevent tragedies. An additional 5 percent said they weren’t sure.

University Police Chief Greg Hestness said the average person wouldn’t have enough training to stop a tragedy from happening, even with a gun.

“Police do a tremendous amount of training, and through their training, they automatically think about who’s around,” Hestness said. “It’d be a very dangerous situation discharging a firearm on campus, even if you are very well trained.”

In Minnesota, residents are allowed to carry concealed firearms if they are registered by the county, and if they pass a firearm safety class. It is illegal for convicted felons, minors or people with a mental illness or chemical dependency to buy a firearm.

Like Virginia Tech, the University has a no-gun policy for students, faculty and staff. University General Counsel Mark Rotenberg said that policy will not soon change.

“A weapons-free environment is even more important now,” he said.

Rotenberg also said the University regents feel very strongly about having a gun-free campus.

Chemical engineering and chemistry senior Brad Cyr is the head of the Minnesota Shooting Club. Cyr said the University should allow students to carry concealed weapons because it is a state institution, and the state allows concealed carry.

“Ultimately, the only person that’s going to be able to protect me and my loved ones is myself,” Cyr said.

Heather Martens, the president of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, said the issue isn’t whether guns are good or bad.

“There isn’t a pro-gun and anti-gun debate going on,” Martens said. “What we should be having a conversation about is how can we prevent people with dangerous mental health conditions, kids and criminals from getting firearms.”

Martens said that she hoped the tragedy at Virginia Tech could spark a discussion about gun laws.

“I think it would be tragic if more people had to die before we had a real conversation about how to prevent it,” she said.

Some organizations have been leery of using the tragedy to push their positions.

The National Rifle Association has not yet commented on the tragedy, but released a statement that said, in part: “This is a time to grieve and to heal. This is not the time for political discussions, public policy debates or to advance a political agenda.”

College Republicans have also refrained from taking a position.

“Right away, I just wanted stay away from it, because we should be worried about them (Virginia Tech students) and not policies,” said Ryan Mattson, a political science senior and the executive director of College Republicans.

Political science senior and University DFL President Shannon Mitchell said her group hasn’t taken a stance because its membership comes from many different backgrounds that influence individual positions on the issue.

“It’s hard for the party to take an exact stance, but I personally think that it’s important to look at (gun) laws,” she said.