Push on to let U students, faculty bring guns to campus

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH
  • Updated: March 25, 2014 - 5:29 PM

A campaign starts this week at the University of Minnesota.

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Studying at Coffman Memorial Union on the University of Minnesota campus.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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A four-day campaign to allow some students, faculty, staff and visitors to carry firearms at the University of Minnesota kicked off Monday with organizers hoping to attract attention to the issue.

The “Allow Campus Carry” event opened with a quiet midday petition drive and information handout in Coffman Union and is scheduled to run daily through Thursday.

Members of the Minnesota College Republicans, Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, Young Americans for Liberty and the Minnesota Republic newspaper are advocating allowing people 21 and over who are legally permitted to carry weapons to do so on campus. They were joined at the information table Monday by the 2014 Miss Minneapolis, Julia Schliesing, who has advocated firearms training as a self-protection measure for women.

Susan Eckstein, president of the College Republicans and a senior math major from New Prague who said she is a longtime supporter of the constitutional right to bear arms, said Monday’s event was a way to “get the conversation started” and about lifting the ban on legally authorized personal weapons on campus. The effort is intended to help students take personal responsibility for their own safety, and make an informed decision on the issue, she said.

Lifting the current weapons ban would help those on campus “feel more safe,” she said.

“The people who would have guns are not the ones who could cause problems,” she added.

David Seffren, who said he is the parent of a student at Minnesota State University Mankato, where visitors with permits can carry concealed weapons, said the aim of lifting the ban at the U is not designed to arm students and staff. “It’s so that criminals don’t know who has [a gun],” he said.

Literature at the table from the Twin Cities Gun Owners & Carry Forum went further, asserting “that the Regents value the safety of criminals over that of law abiding students, staff and visitors.”

More than half

At the U, about 58 percent of students are 21 and older. If the U’s current ban were lifted, they would be eligible to carry a concealed weapon at the U if they had a legal permit, as would faculty, staff and visitors.

The university’s ban on weapons on its campuses in the Twin Cities, Rochester, Duluth and Morris predates even the 2003 state conceal-and-carry law. It was reinforced after that measure in a Board of Regents statement asserting “the board considers it essential that all persons feel safe and be free from violence, threats and intimidation when on University property or attending university functions and events.”

Bill Donohue, general counsel for the university, noted that the regents adopted the policy as “the best way to promote health, safety and welfare on the University campuses. “ He added Monday that there are no plans to reconsider it.

Since the 2006-07 school year, nine students have been found to have violated the campus weapons ban.

Sara Gottlieb, a senior Spanish and Portuguese major from Golden Valley who last fall helped organize a petition drive seeking greater police presence after a string of campus robberies and a sexual assault, said Monday she was unaware of the effort to relax the campus weapons ban.

“I don’t want to say it would solve the issue,” she said of any possible impact on campus crime. “I think it might actually make things worse.”

Even legally authorized weapons might make for a dangerous mix with alcohol, youth and other features of a campus weekend, Gottlieb added.

“I don’t think [many students] are responsible enough,” she said. “I’m 21 and I wouldn’t trust myself with it.’’

Minnesota is one of 22 states that allow colleges and universities to establish their own restrictions on state conceal-and-carry laws (which all 50 states have), according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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