In the past two weeks alone: A student was found dead at Galludet University, a school for the deaf in Washington, D.C. in suburban Chicago, a former factory worker forced his way into an engine plant and used a rifle to kill four people and wound four more before committing suicide with a revolver in Kansas, three students were arrested in connection with an attempted massacre at their high school in California, a 19-year-old student faces 122 felony counts and up to 108 years in prison for allegedly planning a bombing and shooting rampage at his community college.
Meanwhile, thousands of Michigan gun enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the July 1st enactment of a new law that gives concealed weapons to virtually anyone who wants them.
University Provost Nancy Cantor is concerned the law will lead to an increase in University visitors carrying concealed weapons. On Monday, she met with the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs to consider amending the University”s Standard Practice Guide its official set of operating policies to include a gun-free ordinance. We commend Cantor for her timely proposal, which demonstrates the University”s unwavering commitment to the safety of the University community.
Michigan”s House of Representatives originally passed the law in May 1999 less than one month after the carnage at Columbine, and three days before another round of school shootings in Georgia. The Senate passed a similar bill within 10 days.
Currently, applicants must demonstrate the need to carry a concealed firearm. The new law grants permits to anyone over 21 with a clean criminal record and no history of mental illness. Michigan State Police say the new law could more than double the number of people allowed to carry concealed weapons, from 52,000 now to about 125,000.
Cantor and SACUA are correct to be concerned. The Code of Student Conduct prohibits students from possessing weapons on University-controlled property or at University events or programs. But the Code makes no mention of a weapons ban for University visitors, and the Standard Practice Guide does not mention weapons at all. Some contend that there is no practical reason why the University”s policies should be changed. Gov. John Engler would only sign the concealed weapons measure once it included a provision establishing gun-free zones around schools, churches and day care centers. As a result, even after the law takes effect, carrying a concealed weapon on University property will be a felony worth up to 5 years in prison and a $2,500 fine.
Still, by amending the Standard Practice Guide which requires Regent approval the University is reiterating its commitment to the wellbeing of its students, staff and faculty. As the nation is shaken by gun violence day after day, anything the University could possibly do to calm the community is appreciated. Even if the policy change turns out to be little more than symbolic, it will still be a welcome gesture.