By Eppey Cook, Tori Hoffman and Manola Secaira
Amid proclamations of romantic love and criticism of campus life, two statements appeared on the SPU Confessions Page on Facebook.
The first was posted anonymously:
“Tbh, I carry my Sig on campus all the time. Take that you silly liberal fruitcakes. Concealed pistol license ftw!”
The second was posted a day later:
“i’d honestly feel a lot better if more people carried guns on campus. the people who get concealed carry licenses are the law abiding citizens who would stop a shooting if they were given the opportunity.”
These statements as first reported by The Falcon in February in an opinion column, are not uncommon among college students. According to a recent Rolling Stone article, more than 200 colleges across the U.S. allow individuals to carry firearms on campus.
SPU Confessions is a page on Facebook where anyone, mainly the SPU community, is invited to express their various opinions.
All submissions on the SPU Confessions Page are posted anonymously. Anyone is free to confess and react to confessions below in the comments section.
In regards to this particular situation, Director of Safety and Security Mark Reid said that while SPU’s Office of Safety and Security doesn’t monitor the Confessions Page, they’ve had some posts quoted and concerns reported to them from people who were alarmed by the page’s content. If the posts pose a clear threat, Reid said that OSS would respond.
SPU has a no-tolerance policy for firearms on campus. If anyone is caught carrying a firearm, there is the possibility of punishment by the SPU administration for failure to adhere to the university’s code of conduct.
Reid said that this has happened in the past.
“In dealing with a weapon found on campus, we would normally confiscate the weapon,” Reid said over email. “We refer issues involving student conduct to the Office of Student Life and they would evaluate the student’s conduct. We would evaluate if the student posed a threat or were they ignoring the rule. We take into account factors related to the safety of the community and compliance with University policy.”
The student handbook, which can be found on SPU’s Student Life webpage under “Policies and Procedures,” lists possession of a firearm as grounds for suspension.
Despite this rule, there are students who ask about whether or not it would be alright to carry on campus if they acquired a concealed carry permit from the state.
SPU’s Dean of Students for Community Life Chuck Strawn said that he has been asked by students about a concealed carry rule on campus before.
“This is a conversation that I had … back in 2001 with a student who was a hunter, who not only wanted to have… a concealed carry but also wanted to have his rifle on campus,” Strawn said. “And so we had this long conversation on what that looks like, you know back 10, 15 years ago.”
Strawn added that the issue goes beyond the fear of somebody with a gun hurting someone else, whether accidentally or on purpose.
He also said that the tension surrounding firearms on campus is something to consider when developing policy. Due to the June 5, 2014 shooting, guns can be a sensitive topic on the SPU campus, Strawn said.
“I think that we still have students on campus for whom that will be a part of their legacy,” he said
Strawn said that there are different viewpoints that students have on guns and how that affects their thoughts and feelings about what a gun can do.
“So for students who want to be able to carry, having a gun makes them feel more safe right?” Strawn said. “For students who don’t want guns on campus, not having a gun helps them feel safe.”
According to Strawn, these differing viewpoints make it harder to discuss the topic.
“What’s problematic is, like a lot of things in our campus and our society, each of those two groups feels strongly about their position and feels like the other position actually puts them in jeopardy,” Strawn said.
Senior Political Science major Alexander DeSoto sees the issue as a fundamental one and one he feels strongly about.
“I’m kind of a fundamentalist when it comes to the Second Amendment,” DeSoto said.
While DeSoto wishes to carry a firearm on campus, and has even made a formal request, he understands the worry.
“I was turned down largely because there isn’t a way to secure them, which I understand,” he said. “I mean everybody leaves their doors unlocked, even if the dorm buildings are locked. I wish that there was a way for there to be easier concealed carrying. I think that a lot of people would have too much of an aneurysm if there was open carry on campus, so that I understand.”
However, he also believes that there is misinformation and fear surrounding guns and proposed some solutions.
“Bring back shooting programs and gun safety programs to primary schools,” DeSoto said. “It used to be that you couldn’t go to a high school without seeing a shooting team … And now that a lot of them have been removed due to offending somebody or hurting somebody’s feelings or just scaring somebody, it just perpetuates this ignorance and fear around firearms.”
DeSoto thinks that regardless of his view, the law is the law. He commented on one post on the Confessions Page, saying, “Hope he got permission to, cos he’s breaking the law otherwise lul. I’d know, I got turned down.”
“I have no problem offending anybody. I do have a problem with somebody breaking the law,” he said. “And if somebody’s concealed carrying on campus without university permission, they’re breaking the law. I would advocate for legal concealed carry. I think [the anonymous confessor is] being stupid.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Caleb Henry weighed in on differing views of firearms depending on where people grow up in the U.S.
“Those who grew up hunting with their fathers and mothers have a familiarity with firearms,”Henry said. “If you grew up in Seattle, on the other hand, you are likely to have only seen guns in movies and TV shows. Guns are an important symbol, capable of representing either the right of self-defense or a national culture of violence.”
Here in Washington State, other universities also forbid firearms on campus.
The University of Washington prohibits “Possession or use of firearms, explosives, dangerous chemicals or other dangerous weapons or instrumentalities on the university campus, except for authorized university purposes, unless prior written approval has been obtained from the university chief of police, or any other person designated by the president of the university.”
Seattle University’s campus policy is the same as SPU’s and the UW’s. And as with both other universities, it can be found on their website, reading:
“All members of the Seattle University community, including faculty, staff, students, and visitors are prohibited from possessing, discharging, or otherwise using firearms, explosives or weapons (“weapons”) on University premises without the expressed authorization of the Director of Campus Public Safety, whether or not the person has been issued a federal or state license to possess such weapons.”
The only exceptions are for the police and military in their official duties, a pre-arranged activity that calls for such a device on campus, armored vehicle guards and a written request, which would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
According to the website for the Office of the Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Washington State currently generally issues licenses for concealed carry of pistols only.
It is only legal to be in possession of a pistol without a license to carry in the event that one is in the wilderness participating in recreational activities such as hunting or fishing.
The Washington State Constitution affirms the right of individuals to bear arms, hence the laws stating it is legal to carry and own certain types of firearms.
“I come from a household that supports responsible gun ownership, I think the right to arms is reasonable but often abused,” junior Communications major Judith Feenstra said via email.
When asked what she thought about students being able to carry guns on campus, even if concealed, Feenstra took a stance against it under any circumstances.
“The bounds for which anyone should be legally allowed to carry a firearm don’t even begin to reach to places like College campuses,” she said. “College campuses should be safe spaces to encourage learning and socialization not threatening spaces that spike fear and violence into the hearts of their students.”
When asked what she felt about the person who confessed on Facebook about concealed carrying on campus, Feenstra offered some empathy.
“This person obviously feels alienated from his/her fellow students and seems to be lashing out in a way that draws attention to themselves,” she said. “But bragging online about carrying a gun on a campus that has already suffered from gun-related violence in the very recent past, that’s kind of a middle finger to those who suffered through that tragedy.”
According to Henry, a topic as emotionally charged as concealed carry of firearms on college campuses has to be navigated with both sides of the argument in mind.
“I would hope that Second Amendment activists would appreciate the fear guns can engender in their classmates,” Henry said. “Similarly, I would hope that gun control advocates would appreciate that gun owners see guns as an extension of the right of self-defense. I am doubtful that conversation will change any opinions on gun control but certainly believe that dialogue can help inform knowledge of the other’s perspective.”