House Bill 334 would allow gun-carry on campus
Staff members, faculty, students, and citizens hold their breaths while the decision to pass House Bill 334 goes under consideration. This bill has already passed the House of Representatives and is making its way through the Senate. If passed, the possession of firearms can be allowed in any public or private area unless expressly authorized in the statute.
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Amanda Warman, director of Campus Safety, represents Keene State College and the university system in opposition of the bill. She testified at the Senate hearing, which resulted in the Senate voting to send it back to the committee for more study.
“I was told by the chancellor that my testimony was very effective,” Warman said.
Currently, public colleges and universities are given the discretion to regulate gun possession on their campuses, according to state law.
However, HB 334 would eliminate this law completely by giving authority to bear arms in any public forum, except for court, according to a press release by the Communications Director for the Governor.
“Trying to address a gun problem with more guns is not a good idea,” arts and humanities lecturer Marc Ryan said.
Firearms could be carried not only on campuses, but to the Verizon Wireless Arena, Fisher Cat Stadium in Manchester, the state hospitals, the state’s 10 county jails, and state parks, including Hampton Beach.
The argument presented here is the balancing of safety of the people against the value of the Second Amendment.
“The argument over what the Second Amendment means is as old as the Second Amendment,” Ryan said.
According to a random survey that ran in the March 24, 2011 edition of The Equinox, 72.5 percent of students do not think gun carrying policies should be allowed on campuses.
“I don’t think that passing House Bill 334 would be a sensible move. I think that allowing students to carry firearms on campus or any public property would create dangerous situations for everyone. Although, there are situations that call for protection, but allowing firearms would just create problems,” freshman Kayla Lance said.
According to that same survey, only 9.6 percent of students would feel more comfortable with their professors carrying a gun during class.
“I don’t see what value it has, and it adds a lot of danger. And the Second Amendment is about the right to bear arms which is part of a well regulated militia. There’s nothing in it that says that students on college campuses should be able to carry concealed, unregistered weapons. The constitutional argument doesn’t seem very strong to me,” Keene citizen Steve Chase said.
The March survey asked, “Do you think gun carry policies should allow concealed carry or open carry in college campuses?”
56 respondents said it would be acceptable if open carried, 57 said it would be okay if the weapons were concealed, and 298 said guns should not be allowed.
People outside of Keene find this bill dangerous as well.
Manchester citizen Tony Krutiak said, “My opinion is that I don’t think they should be carrying weapons on campus regardless of the situation.”
“If the bill is passed, it will go to the governor’s desk, and the governor has assured us that he will veto the bill,” Warman said.
According to Warman, this has bought some time for universities, public and private areas.
Unfortunately, the governor is not planning to run again, and Warman believes that another form of this bill, if not this one, will show up again next term.
There is no guarantee that the next governor would have the same opinion leaving next year up in the air as to how the community and the university will be. Warman discussed this issue with President Helen Giles-Gee, and according to Warman, Giles-Gee understands there is a reality about this and that it is her commitment to the safety of the campus.
Warman also said that if this bill is to pass then there will have to be training required for Campus Safety. Since guns are forbidden on campus now, there are very few students, faculty, or staff that have them so training for such situations appeared less important.
“If the bill passes, it doesn’t discriminate what somebody’s status is on campus whether it is faculty, staff, students. Whatever it is, if it says they can carry, they can carry. But it would definitely change the culture of the campus, it would change how Campus Safety did their job, including carrying weapons,” Warman said.
Kaitlyn Coogan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.