About 30 students came together Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of allowing citizens to have guns on campus.
Virginia 21, a nonpartisan advocacy group for students organized the forum as their first event since opening a chapter on VCU’s campus last semester. The group aimed to initiate a dialogue about campus safety. Members of the group opened the forum with a statement about what the organization thinks is the best way to make VCU safer.
“We don’t want to see guns on campus unless they are in the hands of law enforcement,” said Tom Kramer, the executive director of VA 21.
Volunteers handed out copies of the VCU Weapons Regulation policy, which states that no person shall “have in his or her possession any firearm, other weapon, or explosive, regardless of whether a license to possess same has been issued, without authorization of the President of the University.”
“Persons whose official duty is to possess a weapon are exempted,” according to a regulation adopted recently by the Board of Visitors to clarify the policy.
One student said she felt unsafe walking home alone after night classes and said she would feel safer if she were allowed to carry a gun.
Members and associates of the VCU College Republicans advocated for allowing people with conceal and carry permits to have handguns on campus, but stopped short of advocating unlimited student accessibility to guns. Instead, they suggested having campus gun lockers or checking weapons in with VCU Police could be options to allow those with a permit to keep their guns nearby.
“You don’t wear your seatbelt because you’re expecting to get into an accident; you wear it just in case,” said Justin Smith, a third-year graduate student in public administration.
Some opponents of carrying guns on campus argued about the ability of young students to face situations of extreme pressure. Zao Vu, a fourth-year medical student, said that giving students access to regular training would help students keep calm in the face of danger.
“If students with concealed-carry (permits) went through the same police firearm qualification standard testing (as the VCU Police Department) then they would be as safe as the police because they would have the same stress inoculation,” Vu said. “It’s important to have access to ammunition and (continue) training sessions in a safe and effective manner.”
The group did agree that Virginia’s self-defense laws were reasonable and noted that laws which allow occupants to protect their domestic domain aggressively, often referred to as “Castle Doctrine” laws, are unnecessary.
In this year’s General Assembly Session, 33 bills dealing with firearms were introduced, including some that pushed for allowing unloaded guns or guns kept in locked containers on public school property. Of the 33 bills, only three passed through both chambers, none of which impacted carrying guns on campus.