Firearm policies on university campuses

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BYU has explicit rules on the policy of guns, which also include the standard for concealed handguns.

According to a study released in September of this year and conducted by Ball State University, which surveyed 1,649 students across 15 Midwestern colleges and universities, “Half did not know whether their university had a policy regarding firearms on campus.”

Arnold Lemmon supports the policy of no concealed handguns on BYU campus. Photo by Ari Davis
Arnold Lemmon supports the policy of no concealed handguns on BYU campus. (Photo by Ari Davis)

Additionally, the study concluded a vast majority did not want concealed handguns on their campus and about 66 percent “did not feel that carrying a gun would make them less likely to be troubled by others.”

The position of BYU seems to be in accordance with the study. BYU reserves the right to restrict guns on campus because it is a private university and the campus is considered private property.

State institutions do not have the authority to ban weapons; schools like UVU and SUU permit the carrying of concealed handguns because they are public schools. BYU is a private institution, so it can establish the restrictions for the campus. With this charge, the school forbids any guns on campus including concealed handguns.

Arnold Lemmon has been the lieutenant over support services for BYU University Police for the last five years, but he has worked for University Police a total of 35 years.

“(The mission of University Police) is to create and maintain a safe living and learning environment, and we can best do that by the training we provide to our officers and restricting other people from having guns on campus,” Lemmon said.

The gun restrictions at BYU include residence halls and extend to off-campus housing. According to the off-campus housing handbook, “Owners agree that they will not nor will they allow tenants to store, keep, or maintain on the premises any firearms, explosives, fireworks, or dangerous weapons.”

The handbook explains that any exceptions to storing a gun in off-campus housing must have written consent from all tenants in the unit and the owner. Garry Briggs, who is now the manager of BYU Off-Campus Housing and has worked with Off-Campus Housing for the past 11 years, shared his opinion on the matter.

“If you believe your rights have been violated,” wrote Briggs, “the Rental Agreement provides (instruction) in paragraph 9: ‘When an owner and a BYU student fail to settle any controversy with respect to the rental facilities or to their rental agreement(s) after making a good faith effort on their own, all such controversies shall be submitted to the BYU Center for Conflict Resolution for binding mediation/arbitration.’”

People may not feel that their rights have been violated, but some don’t necessarily agree with the restrictions of guns on campus. Even though the study implies that students don’t want concealed handgun holders on campus, some people feel otherwise.

Jason Silva is a BYU student who is an NRA-certified firearm instructor and works with Students for Concealed Carry, the largest college-based pro-firearms organization in the country.

“When people are asked how they feel about having guns on a college campus, they associate it with things like Columbine, and they don’t realize that in a state like Utah, one in ten or one in twenty adults have a concealed firearm permit,” Silva said. “Anywhere you go in a state outside a college campus, you’re surrounded by people that are armed.”

Many people have a concealed firearm permit and carry to protect themselves and others. The license requires hours of training and a background check.

“I feel like the world is getting more dangerous, and I want to be able to protect myself,” said Shad Larson, a library security guard at BYU. “I do have a (concealed handgun) permit. I would rather have a gun if I were being shot at, than to just have nothing. I think there is more safety in it.”

According to Lemmon, after Columbine, law enforcement in the United States changed its response tactics and training for such an incident. University Police at BYU are armed, and in fact, each officer has hundreds of hours in firearms and incident management training.

“To use a firearm for self defense, one must be skilled in the application of constant situational analysis in conjunction with the legal standards of reasonable necessity, reasonable care, due regard, and imminent danger. … You have to have the training and the skill set. A beautician gets more training in the use of a hair dryer than does an individual get when obtaining a Concealed Firearm Permit,” Lemmon said.

The purpose of restricting firearms on campus is to protect students, according to Lemmon. The University Police are proficiently trained in the use of deadly force.

“Firearms are lethal. As soon as you pull that trigger, there is no taking back the bullet,” Lemmon said.

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