Head-to-Head: Gun Storage on Campus

Campus Housing Should Continue to Allow Gun Storage
by Tahnie Johnson

Many people have debated over whether or not guns belong on school grounds, arguing that it keeps people safer or that it does nothing but aggravate a dangerous situation if there is one. Now, however, there is a new element being added to this argument: Gun storage on college campuses.

According to the MSU Weapons Policy page, the policy for gun storage at MSU is “residents of residence halls may store rifles, shotguns, crossbows, compound bows, recurve bows and long bows with field or broadhead points in university storage facilities in compliance with the requirements set forth in the Residence Life Handbook.” The handbook mentioned says the same thing with the added statement “when checking a weapon in or out the owner must present some form of identification which displays his/her photograph. The owner of the weapon is the only person permitted to check out that firearm.”

Some people, even the ones pro guns, have speculated about how safety is put into question when guns are stored on campus. The university has an answer for that as well, stating in their Weapons Storage Maintenance Policy, “if a resident is found with a weapon in a living area, University Police will be contacted immediately and their residence hall contract will be terminated. The resident will also be sent before a disciplinary committee that may result in suspension from the university.” Along with that, “discharging a weapon in a residence hall will be cause for immediate eviction and possible suspension from school as well as a referral to law enforcement officials.”

For some, guns are necessary for doing what they love to do. Hunting, skeet shooting, league, target practice and many other activities all require some sort of firearm to participate. Logically it makes sense to store those rifles, bows and shotguns on campus where students can easily reach them rather than force them to drive hours away from campus and shorten the time allotted for said activities. We wouldn’t make tennis or football players commute to grab their equipment, it just makes sense to be equally fair to gun owners.

Now when it comes to guns, no one can promise nothing will happen because that is just improbable. The best we can do, however, is prepare and try to make sure there are enough precautions to keep anything bad from happening. The article published by the Exponent on Feb. 22, 2013, titled “Guns on Campus: A History” by staff writer Brent Zundel says it best: “University policy acknowledges such inevitabilities and pragmatically encourage safe practices, while simultaneously mitigating unnecessary risks with an open, inclusive environment.”

Centralized Gun Storage Safer for Campus
by Abby Klonsinski

Firearm storage methods at MSU are out of date. According to a suicide prevention report given to the Montana State Board of Regents last month, MSU is the only university in Montana with a campus police department that doesn’t utilize central weapon storage. The storing of weapons, such as rifles, shotguns and crossbows in storage facilities in residence halls should no longer be accepted or allowed. Rather, MSU students, staff and all residents of Bozeman should encourage the creation of a centralized weapons lockup, to be located at MSU Campus Police headquarters near campus.

There are several reasons a centralized weapons lockup would create a better, safer way of handling and accessing weapons than the current procedure. In terms of arguably the most important factor – suicide prevention – centralized lockup would help deter any student living on campus from taking their life by firearm, which accounts for 86 percent of all suicides in Montana. The report presented last month cited a study that found if a person’s preferred manner of suicide is unavailable, it is unlikely they will change methods. That same report stated two-thirds of people contemplating suicide do not plan their attempt in advance. Of those who do attempt, a quarter do so within five minutes of their decision, and half within 20 minutes. That means if a student does not have access to a firearm immediately, but instead had to interact with a police officer to gain control of their weapon, the likelihood of an attempted suicide is greatly decreased.

Furthermore, those storing, handling and redistributing firearms should be police officers, not resident advisors or directors. Officers go through intense training not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. They are taught how to analyze a situation, which includes comprehending the mental state of those they interact with. Although only the owner can retrieve their weapon from the front desk and must present a form of identification, those safeguards are not enough to ensure the protection and security of both the student reclaiming their weapon and the safety of all others on campus. Instead, police officers should be the ones to redistribute weapons so that any hesitation or questioning of mindset can be properly handled. As MSU spokesman Michael Becker stated, “Police officers are in a better position to judge the mental state of students than residence hall staff.”

Finally, by requiring centralized storage, it would eliminate the need for students to travel across campus with weapons. Close parking on campus can be difficult to find, meaning that any student returning their weapon to a residence hall must travel from their vehicle to Langford, Roskie, Johnstone Center, North or South Hedges, the only dorms that allow weapon storage. Depending on where an available parking spot is and which dorm students are traveling to, it can end up being a far distance to cover while carrying a weapon. The uncertainty of what can occur when transporting a deadly weapon any distance is worrisome, but especially so in as populated of an area as campus. With centralized storage being located at the MSU police headquarters rather than on campus, it would eliminate the need for students to truck around with their firearms, ultimately leading to a reduction in any accidents that could occur during their travels.

There are multiple reasons to encourage MSU to end their current weapon storage policy and instead create a centralized lockup under management of the University Police Department. While it is uncertain the total price such a program would entail, the benefits far outweigh the potential costs.