Up in arms

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Students worry about guns on campus

As of Sept. 28, concealed firearms are permitted on any of the seven public university campuses in Oregon. A three-judge panel in the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that a ban on guns throughout the Oregon University System is unlawful and against citizens’ second amendment rights—the right to bear arms. This ruling gives any permit-carrying gun owner the legal right to bring his or her weapon onto PSU and other Oregon campuses as long as it remains concealed. As expected, this alteration has been met with much controversy and concern statewide.

Firearms are consistently a touchy subject. People are either for or against them, with little gray area. This new ruling against the ban has left many students and educational advocates deeply upset. Will these new regulations on firearms be a threat to the safety of campus students or increase general campus safety?

Across the country, laws regarding firearms on school campuses vary drastically. In our neighboring state of California, guns, whether concealed or not, are illegal on public university campuses. The state of Washington, however, reflects similar views as Oregon and holds restrictions for permit carrying gun owners.

The biggest issue to arise from all of this is how the lift of the ban will effect how comfortable students will feel now that guns are permitted on campus. Those with concealed weapon permits will be able to have their guns anywhere on campus, including campus housing. Many have voiced that such a ruling makes them feel far less secure in their place of education.

“Students should feel safe whenever they’re on campus. This shouldn’t be something we have to worry about,” Daisy Vongsaravanhlao, a senior film major, said.

Perhaps the biggest threat is not the guns themselves, but how their looming presence will disturb and create anxiety in fellow unarmed students. Knowing someone nearby may have a weapon could make people uneasy,
regardless of a legal permit.

“It’s a little scary. I don’t mind when people have a permit and keep a concealed weapon at their house; that’s their business. You have the right to have a gun. That’s fine. But it doesn’t seem like you would need a gun on campus,” Hanaa El-warari, a sophomore vocal performance major, said.

The primary issue is the perceived necessity for such weapons. University campuses in Oregon have remained relatively peaceful for years with restrictions on guns in place. It is questionable how much this new regulation will actually change. Supporters of the ruling say it is likely that prior to this ruling many owners with permits were already carrying their firearms on campuses.

Despite the tension surrounding firearms, it is doubtful that such a change would actually encourage students to arm themselves on campus. The majority that would bring their concealed weapons to school are people who already currently own guns; which is then broken into a smaller percentage of those who actually would choose to bring them.

To at least placate our most prominent worries, this does not mean in any way that our campus will now be flooded with a slew of gun-toting, trigger-happy folk. In order to obtain a specific concealed weapon permit, one must complete a series of gun safety courses through the Multnomah sheriff’s station. Once they’ve finished the classes, they may then submit an application for approval. Those with any violent misdemeanors, standing warrants or history of mental health issues are automatically denied.

“Since Portland State is located downtown, there are certain individuals that have less than good intentions in this immediate area. For some students, particularly young females, that have a long way home or are traveling here from other cities later in the evening, there’s definitely a certain utility in having a weapon to protect yourself,” Tom Voytko, a post baccalaureate criminology and criminal justice student, said.

“Personally if I knew there was a law-abiding citizen who knew their weapon well in a classroom, I would think students should feel safer,” Voytko said.

Portland State’s Campus Public Safety Office was unable to comment at this time because of a potential appeal that will be made against the court’s decision. It appears that regardless of how they decide to take action, whether through an appeal or other measures, there will be a continued effort to ban firearms on public campuses. For now, students and faculty will have to accept that it is a permit-holding gun owner’s legal right to have his or her gun on Portland State’s campus. Time will tell whether this decision unnerves our student population, gives us an added sense of security or does nothing at all.

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