Oregon’s new gun policy draws blanks

Written by | March 12, 2012

Is the new policy really protecting anyone?

The Oregon State Board of Higher Education really wants to get guns off campuses. A hotly contested topic in the legislature, the debate for and against firearm control has seen many twists and turns. One such twist was the Oregon Court of Appeals ruling last September that the board did not have administrative authority to regulate guns on campuses. And recently, the State Senate rejected a bill banning guns on school and university campuses.

So, the latest action by the board on March 2, in a “we’ll show you” move, was to adopt a policy that prohibits guns on the campuses of all seven universities in Oregon, which includes Portland State. This applies to all students, employees, visitors and anyone engaged in business with the university.

They sidestepped the court’s original decision by using a loop hole. They just made it a policy decision—something they do have authority to do.

But, the problem is, it’s still legal.

So, if a student gets caught carrying a gun, they would be in violation of the school’s code of conduct, but not of the law. According to the code, firearm violations are considered High Level Offenses for which the first-time punishment is a $75 fine. If someone wants to bring a gun to school, is a petty fine going to change his or her mind? Probably not. As well-meaning as it is, without any legal ramifications, the new policy seems a bit pointless.

Currently there are 25 states that leave the decision up to the university, including Oregon. But, if there are no legal consequences, it’s like saying to the schools, “You can decide whatever you’d like, but we won’t do anything to support you.”

This isn’t unusual, though. Since the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech in which 33 people died, many states have considered relaxing laws against firearms on campuses to enable people to protect themselves. This sentiment has recently reared its head again following the school shootings in Pennsylvania and Ohio. It’s understandable that after such traumatic incidents the vulnerability of students would be of the utmost concern.

But letting everyone bring a gun to school is hardly the answer. In fact, after the shooting in Tucson, Ariz., that left six people dead and nine wounded, the police chief at the University of Arizona insisted that it would worsen the situation. In an interview with The New York Times, he described the utter confusion there would be if officers arrived at a scene with scores of students with drawn weapons.

We need to know who the bad guys are.

When Mississippi passed a law allowing guns on campus, the stipulation was a voluntary course on safe firearm handling. How reassuring. When most states require only a one-day class for a gun permit, and some not even that, the idea that our classrooms would be filled with people who spend more time studying for their finals than how to fire a deadly weapon is horrifying.

So it’s not just a madman on a rampage that we need to worry about.

As one Los Angeles Times writer put it, “College students, many of whom are coming to terms with the pressures of romantic entanglements and academic expectations, also tend to abuse alcohol and drugs. Adding firearms to this volatile mix is a spectacularly bad idea.”

While the Board of Higher Education is trying to keep guns out of schools using whatever avenue they can (and should be applauded for it), resorting to policy is kind of like calling a policeman who’s been handcuffed. Not very effective.

What we really need is our State Senate to understand the insanity of making it legal for potentially thousands of people walking into our classrooms and cafeterias with guns. What more do they need to enact the law?

If they can unanimously pass such a crucial bill as House Bill 4170, which mandates that dogs can be trained in farmland zones, then surely they can decide that students can be “trained” in a safe, gun-free zone.

Let’s hope they do.

3 Responses

  1. Dear Editor,
    The Oregon State Board of Higher Education did not sidestep the Oregon Court of Appeals Decision on firearms on campus. This same court made a precedent setting decision a few years ago when it ruled in favor of a school in Medford, Oregon that its internal policy prohibiting firearms in the school was valid after a teacher sued the school to bring a firearm on to its premises. We are in fact following the method that the Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of in terms of prohibing firearms and other weapons from any Oregon University System campus, including PSU. Thank you.
    Di Saunders
    Office of the Chancellor

  2. Dear Editor,
    You are correct, the Board is attempting to side step the ruling, and for no good reason other than to “show us” they can. Since this is about gun control and not safety ( the last school shooting was in 1984 at University of Oregon) I will use some of the gun control language. They are using a loophole to bypass the clear intent of the legislature and the judiciary. It can’t be any clearer than the quote from a sitting state Representative “I hope the universities will recognize that those with concealed handgun licenses are legally able to bring their arms on campus.”

    I would think having seven universities, all teaching civics and government classes under them, they would have learned by now how government is supposed to run. Perhaps they need to attend a few of the classes their Universities offer in this area. By using this loophole they are negating everything civics classes teach about the representative system of government. Why go through the challenging process of getting a law passed when you can just do what you want, go to court, get ruled against, and then look for a loophole to exploit?

    Getting back to the safety issue, the last University shooting in Oregon took place in 1984. Two decades ago. The student had mental health issues, just like the Virginia Tech shooter so many like to use to justify these rules. There was another shooting in Virginia which you don’t hear being brought up as an example. This one took place at the Appalachian School of Law. The reason you don’t hear it brought up is because two students with personally owned firearms stopped the shooter after three people were killed.

    This ruling will be challenged and overturned, just like the last, but only after wasting more money which a cash strapped University system can’t afford. The safety issue is a red herring, the Board’s example of exploiting loopholes is destroying all the work their civics classes are doing to teach how the system is supposed to work, and they are wasting money that should be used in the instruction of students. This is a policy which has all loses and no gains for the students of the Oregon State University System. The students whose education is supposed to be the primary focus of the Board.

    I have withheld my name as I have one class left to graduate and have seen how the University treated Jeffrey Maxwell, the student whose case got the original rule overturned. I do not want to face this sort of retaliation and threat to my future. He faced the threat due to his exercise of the second amendment but if they are willing to threaten one right I am sure they would have no problem going after me for my exercise of the first amendment.

    That, and I’m an under grad, the 75 dollar fine I would receive after the illegal breach of my 4th amendment rights would deplete my top ramen fund for the rest of the school year!

  3. Rape, Murder, and a Defenseless Student Body!!!

    First, a citizen licensed to carry a concealed handgun caught in possession of a firearm while intoxicated will lose their right to carry concealed. Carry a gun and use drugs or alcohol, then you loose your gun rights.

    UNELECTED officials at the State University Board of Education subsidized with your tax dollars and acting as the guardians of public higher education, can subvert State Supreme Court decisions and require you to relinquish your natural right to self-defense in exchange for access to a better future through a college education. Your Tax Dollars + Unelected Administrators = Civil Rights Legislation without Representation. We are paying to have our right to self-defense taken away.

    Try explaining the common sense of this to my classmate that was raped on her way back to her dorm. The rapist, who is still at large, followed her long enough to determine she was a PSU student heading to her dorm and therefore presumably unarmed, then hit her in the head and raped her. She was 27 years old and of legal age to own and carry a concealed handgun but had to forfeit her right to be secure in herself in exchange for access to a public education. What a deal…

    A law abiding citizens licensed by the Multnomah County Sheriff to carry a concealed handgun into their local bank, grocery store, coffee shop, city park, parking garage, public street, and anywhere else in the State of Oregon suddenly is a danger to fellow citizens when they cross that arbitrary line called a ‘campus’, I can almost guarantee that anyone who supports this position knows nothing about guns or gun safety; they’re just afraid of what they don’t understand.

    So it can be legal for a citizen licensed by the Sheriff to carry a handgun on the Max to work, to the bank and coffee shop on their lunch break, but since they are “banned” from carrying on campus they must leave their firearm at home. So a campus ban then becomes, in effect, a full time ban on self-defense.… and then comes the rape, robbery, and murder that our student body is becoming accustomed to.

    If guns are so dangerous then why is the PSU administration intensely considering arming their “security” guards? Maybe it’s because one of those “guards” was held at gun point by a criminal on campus and had absolutely no way to defend themselves. No what if it was an active shooter like at Virginia Tech? Still feel secure? Still make sense? Personally, I would rather take my $75 fine (if caught) and live to see another day than die in a mass shooting or become a victim of rape.… You on the other hand are free to choose as you like.

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