On-campus gun rights spark debate

If a gun lobby has its way, students will be able to tote guns on college campuses. Currently, Rider’s policy does not allow possession of weapons of any kind.
If a gun lobby has its way, students will be able to tote guns on college campuses. Currently, Rider’s policy does not allow possession of weapons of any kind.

by Amber Cox

A gun lobby and the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus are fighting each other on the issue of allowing — or not allowing — guns on college campuses.

After the mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Northern Illinois University in 2008, the gun lobby decided to call for legislation that would stop colleges and universities from regulating firearms on campuses to help students and staff defend themselves.

Dean of Students Anthony Campbell said gun control is not an issue at Rider.

“Our rule is that there are no weapons allowed on campus — no weapons of any kind,” Campbell said. “It’s in The Source.”

The Source, Rider’s student handbook and policy manual, on page 77, prohibits the “unauthorized possession of a firearm or any other object designed to be commonly seen or used as a weapon (as defined by New Jersey statutes), regardless of whether the weapon is actually operable. Note: This provision includes possession of axes, hatchets, large knives, antique weaponry, BB, pellet or paint ball guns, bows and arrows, brass knuckles, martial arts weaponry, among other objects.”

Though Rider already has a policy regarding weapons, the proposed legislation would alter any current policies on firearms.

The proposed legislation would also allow students to possess and carry concealed handguns at all school-sponsored activities. It would also allow students to keep guns in their dorm rooms.

In 2006, a pitcher for Rider’s baseball team was suspended from the team for having an imitation AK-47 assault rifle. The imitation was in fact a pellet gun. When the weapon was seen sitting on the student’s bed, campus was shut down.

A more serious incident occurred in 2003 when a visitor fired a gun into a group of people outside the Cavalla Room after an Intercultural Greek Council party. A member of the women’s basketball team was wounded in the leg and a student’s guest was wounded in the heel.

The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus is fighting against the gun lobby by sending letters to the presidents of colleges and universities across the country, asking them to sign onto a solution that strictly opposes the proposed legislation.

As of Feb. 12, 2009, 36 schools from 16 different states signed on in support of the campaign.

Another well-known gun prevention campaign, The Brady Campaign, announced in early February that the state of New Jersey ranks second in gun control laws, in regard to the severity of the law.

Gov. Jon Corzine signed a new gun law, also in early February, that states that those people caught with machine guns or other illegal assault weapons will face harsher penalties. The crime is now classified as a second-degree crime instead of a third-degree one. Anyone caught will now face a penalty of five to 10 years in prison or a $150,000 fine.

Rider students are not comfortable with the idea of guns on campus, although some did say that it may add to safety efforts.

“Guns on campus are one of those things where it can be a benefit, but it’s dangerous,” sophomore Melissa Cooper said. “If everyone has a gun, who’s to say someone won’t get drunk and shoot people? But situations may arise where a gun could be helpful.”

Although Cooper thinks that there may be positive outcomes to the allowing of firearms on campus, she believes that the negative possibilities are more significant.

“It’s one of those things where there are pros and cons, but I think the cons outweigh the pros,” Cooper said.

Allowing guns on college campuses would increase the risk of gun violence, and students would not be the only ones at risk.

“Student, faculty, and staff will be put in danger if guns are allowed on campus,” junior Jordana Grosso said.

People with different thoughts on the issue will have different feelings, another student made clear.

“People that want guns in their homes will probably want guns on campus,” said junior Stephanie Premselaar. “But people that don’t want guns in their homes probably won’t want them on campus.”

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