By Katherine Ayers
Saturday, May 4, 2013
Top university and community college leadership as well as the East Carolina University police department have spoken out against a state bill that would allow handguns on both public and private college campuses.
House Bill 937, cosponsored by Reps. Brian Brown and Susan Martin, would allow people with a valid concealed handgun permit to keep their handgun “in a locked vehicle state government parking lot, have a concealed handgun in a locked compartment in a vehicle on the premises of a community college or public or private university.”
In a statement released Friday, Chancellor Steve Ballard said the bill would have “a negative impact to the safety of our campus.”
“It has the potential to create dangerous situations for our faculty, staff, students and visitors,” Ballard said. “If an incident occurs on our campus, law enforcement arriving on the scene must be able to quickly distinguish suspects from bystanders. Allowing weapons on campus could hamper their ability to make split-second decisions while assessing the situation.”
Pitt Community College President Dennis Massey supported a statement released by the N.C. Community College System President Scott Ralls denouncing the legislation.
“The safety of our students, faculty and staff is always of the utmost importance; therefore, changing our campuses from allowing no firearms to allowing even limited firearms presents concerns,” Ralls said. “Our preference is that our community colleges not be included in this legislation. If the legislation moves forward, it should at least contain the current limitations written in the bill.”
Lt. Chris Sutton with the ECU Police Department said the bill doesn’t make a campus community any more safe because it requires the handgun to be left in a vehicle.
“So if an incident occurred while in class, it would be no help,” Sutton said.
Larceny is the most reported crime on ECU campus, Sutton said.
“Now you take a chance when a criminal breaks into vehicle there’s a chance they’ll find a gun in a console or under a seat,” he said. “Not (all permit holders) will be responsible enough to have a gun safe bolted to the chassis.”
Sutton said there also is the possibility for accidental felonies to occur if a student puts their gun in a bookbag to take from their house to their vehicle but then forgets to take the gun from the bag and leave it in their vehicle once they get to campus.
“It’s an arrestable offense, but then you also run risk of someone seeing (the weapon) on them and now you get a report of a gunman on campus when there was no intent at all,” Sutton said. “This legislation can create a whole lot of problems that everybody’s not really looking at.”
The bill also says people can carry their concealed handgun into an assembly where admission is charged or an establishment that sells alcohol unless the person who owns the building posts a notice prohibiting the carrying of handguns on the premises.
Debate on the bill is scheduled for Monday.
Contact Katherine Ayers at email@example.com and 252-329-9567. Follow her on Twitter @KatieAyersGDR.
via The Daily Reflector.