Editorial: Weapons policy needs to be more visible

By The Beacon | November 14, 2013 2:19am

Every year during Orientation, the incoming freshman class hears a great deal about the policy on alcohol and drug use. They are taught the rules so that the responsibility for any violation falls squarely on the violator.

One thing incoming freshmen don’t hear much about: weapons.

Sure, it is ultimately students’ responsibility to know the weapons policy (or any policy, for that matter). It is not Public Safety or Residence Life’s job to expound every single University rule to every single student. And yes, students are sent Life on The Bluff, the student handbook, at the beginning of every year and told that they must read it to learn the policy.

But if we’re going to be honest, most students don’t read Life on The Bluff, and none of us can be expected to memorize every detail in the 60-page handbook. Normally, if students don’t know a policy, it’s their own loss, but in the case of weapons, not knowing the policy could compromise safety on campus. The weapons policy should be clearly articulated not only in the student handbook but also publicly, so that there is no confusion about it.

After all, confusion about a weapons policy is what might get two Gonzaga University students expelled. On Oct. 24, one of the students pointed a gun at a trespasser on the students’ off-campus, University-owned apartment, and now both are facing consequences for possessing firearms.

Both students were unaware that Gonzaga’s weapons policy prohibits having firearms even in off-campus apartments, and frankly, their actions were not particularly out of line. The students live in a neighborhood they feel is dangerous, and the intruder tried to intimidate them by showing a police-mandated ankle bracelet tracker demonstrating that he is a felon. Possessing and pointing a gun do not seem unreasonable in this situation.

The same thing very well could happen at UP given the student body’s limited knowledge of the policy.

Furthermore, some points of UP’s policy are surprising to many students. Mace, for example, is not allowed on campus or in any University-owned housing. It is not uncommon for parents to leave their freshmen (especially daughters) with a can of Mace at the beginning of the year, just to be sure they’re safe. How many students have been in violation of the policy without being aware?

And how many students feel unsafe without carrying Mace at night? The incident at Gonzaga has prompted the school to reexamine its weapons policy, and maybe UP should do the same — it hasn’t been changed since 2003.

Thankfully, it hasn’t needed to change since 2003. The fact that there have been few incidents of students violating the weapons policy is a positive reflection of our safe campus climate. But the lack of conversation about weapons on campus causes students to feel that it just isn’t an issue — and in a matter of safety, it should be an issue.