'The best thing to fight a gun with is another gun'
In an era when school shootings are a reality, a group of UND students are hoping a bill introduced to the state House of Representatives will make it legal to pack heat on campus.
State law currently prohibits those with concealed weapons permits from toting firearms at colleges, but Students for Concealed Carry on Campus wants that to change.
"History has shown us that gun-free zones basically mean defense-free zones," sophomore Tony Bowers said Wednesday as he manned the group's table at the Memorial Union. "By allowing this bill to go through, you're basically taking an extra step to allow us to defend ourselves in the event something should happen."
Junior Greg Plautz, who formed UND's SCCC chapter in the spring of 2008, said he plans to testify in support of the bill Friday in Bismarck.
"I think it has pretty good odds to pass," he said. "I think there's going to be good broad support for it. You know, it's nothing too extreme."
If the bill becomes law, licensed concealed weapons, which include firearms and various other dangerous weapons, would be allowed at public areas and gatherings such as college campuses, sporting events, churches, political rallies, concerts, parks and public buildings. However, the prohibition on concealed weapons in elementary, middle and high schools would stay intact.
But even if the bill passes, an existing UND policy banning weapons on campus could remain a roadblock.
The state Board of Higher Education delegates authority to North Dakota's public universities to make their own weapons policies, said Jeffrey Powell, a student services officer in the dean of students office. Powell said it's not clear whether the passage of this bill would affect UND's weapons policy which is derived from state law.
On hearing about the proposed legislation, 24-year-old law student Laura Barnett had reservations.
"You'd be allowed to have a concealed weapon at the Hyslop or The Ralph?" she asked. "That's a little scary. That makes me think school shooting."
But Bowers argues that concealed weapons on UND's campus could prevent or reduce casualties during a shooting spree. "The best thing to fight a gun with is another gun," he said.
UND Police Capt. Don Rasmuson doesn't buy that argument. He said more guns would add to the confusion and danger inherent in such a situation.
"If we are responding to an active shooter ... we will not have time for all the niceties," he said. "Our main focus will be to neutralize the situation, and if somebody has a gun in their hand, then they're a threat."
Rasmuson said students are allowed to store in firearms at the university police station. Well over 100 weapons belonging to students are kept there, he said.