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Students at Catholic University vote to allow guns on campus

Catholic University (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Catholic University student leaders want students to be able to carry guns on campus.

“A resolution in support of student carry” easily passed the school’s student government, the Student Association General Assembly, with a  16 to 11 vote.

That surprised one of the bill’s sponsors, Matt Hanrahan, a junior majoring in politics. “The gun debate in this country is very polarizing,” he said, “and it’s even more polarizing to talk about firearms on campus.”

He said he doesn’t expect to see students carrying any time soon. “I don’t think the administration will go for it, and D.C. has issued very few permits. But it starts a conversation about safety on campus.”

Students are not allowed to carry guns on campus now. The resolution notes:
“…Following the Heller Supreme Court decision in 2012, the Washington,
D.C. City Council, carrying a legally purchased firearm is now legal in the
District of Columbia, with a permit issue by Metropolitan Police

People have fiercely debated whether to allow guns on campus, particularly after a gunman killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus in 2007, with some worried that arming students could trigger violence, and others countering the best way to ensure safety is to have people ready to protect them.

There has been a surge of interest in gun ownership and firing ranges among some college students on campuses nationwide in recent years.

But the university administration is not interested in furthering the student government vote.

“We don’t have any plans to change or to consider changing the Code of Student Conduct to accommodate students who might wish to have firearms on campus,” said Victor Nakas, a spokesman for the university.

Hanrahan said he’s from Danbury, Conn., about 10 minutes away from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were shot by a 20-year-old with a gun in December 2012.

“Since that day I’ve taken school safety very seriously,” he said.

“We don’t live in the safest place,” he added. “There have been armed robberies in the area around the school. Who knows who can come onto our campus. Metro police could be on campus within minutes, and lock the campus down, but police are only going to be able to react to a situation that has occurred.” But campus police might notice someone who seemed suspicious and be able to prevent problems, he said.

“My end goal would be to get campus police armed,” Hanrahan said. “For me, you just never know what can happen in today’s society.”

Nakas said campus police are  not armed. “We have made a conscious decision not to do so. Our Department of Public Safety has strong ties with MPD,” the city police department, he said.

Raelyn Schnappauf, a freshman politics major, voted against the resolution. “I don’t believe that my campus should be able to have concealed weapons on campus. I feel students are safe without them, and having weapons on campus would probably put students at greater risk of violence.

“College campuses are notorious for alcohol,” use, she said, “for young adults who don’t always make the wisest decisions.”

 Read the resolution here.