For most college students, their days of going to a locker are over.
But for some at Bemidji State University, they're just beginning.
Over the summer, the building staff at the 4,000-student school constructed a new weapons storage room on campus, with room for up to 130 guns — or bows, or even fishing spears.
For about $25,000, Bemidji State is getting a student amenity that fills an important need, said Randy Ludeman, director of housing and residential life.
"We've got many students here who include hunting and fishing in their lives," Ludeman said. "We bill our outdoor and environmental things as an asset — both to attract students here and as part of their learning.
"But with a young adult, away from home for the first time, nobody paying attention to them the way they used to, we thought it was a good idea to keep things safe. And we've always had more need than space."
For at least 30 years, the university has offered weapons storage to its students. But the previous storage room was cramped and overcrowded, with repurposed gym lockers that were awkward to use and often not a good fit for bulky weapons.
The new lockers were scratch-built and designed to accommodate just about any kind of hunting weapon. Storage units are clad in laminated panels with a camouflage pattern, a choice made to appeal to the outdoors-minded.
There's no fee for students to use a locker, Ludeman said: "We decided we want [students] to use them."
Safety is also a key goal of the weapons room. While students aren't allowed to keep guns in their rooms or on their persons while on campus, the availability of a free, quality storage facility will minimize the temptation to stash a gun in a dorm.
To get into the storage room, students must go through the university's public-safety office, which is staffed around the clock. The storage area also has security cameras.
"It really is a nice, secure way to maintain these weapons on campus," Ludeman said.
While state law permits students to keep unloaded weapons in their vehicles, that's not a good option, he added.
"A lot of people don't want to keep their $2,000 shotgun in their trunk," he said.
The facility is kind of a one-stop shop for hunters, with two gun-cleaning tables and a game-cleaning room with commercial-grade kitchen equipment and two freezers.
The new storage room will also be used by the university's trapshooting club.
"The trap club adviser just asked me for five lockers for the club to store ammo," Ludeman said. "There's overwhelming interest in trap shooting at the high school level."
Bemidji State isn't the only university to offer gun storage. A quick search turns up many other schools that offer it, including the University of South Dakota, University of Montana and University of Wyoming.
But Ludeman said he doesn't know of any other Minnesota schools that have such a top-notch facility.
Campus officials from state universities in Moorhead, St. Cloud, Winona and Marshall have been in touch over the summer, he said, "asking, 'How do we do this?' "
Ludeman said gun-owning students won't see the storage room as an imposition — in fact, he said, they've been asking for it.
"From what we see with our students, they're not novices with weapons," he said. "And when we talked about this with parents at orientation, they were reassured that we took safety seriously."
John Reinan • 612-673-7402