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Slippery Rock students take weapons policy in stride

| Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014, 5:34 p.m.

In the 15 months since Slippery Rock University implemented a weapons policy, school officials said little has changed.

“There have been no protests for or against. There was talk about it when it started, op-eds in the school newspaper. ... Parents in general don't like the idea of having guns on a college campus. At some point, this will have to be worked out,” said Karl Schwab, a university spokesman.

Slippery Rock now allows students who are permitted to carry guns to do so on campus as long as they don't enter any buildings or go to any university events with them.

The policy, implemented in October 2012, mirrors one the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education System recently delayed considering. It has been trying to develop a uniform gun policy across the system for several years.

Today, similar policies are in effect at six of the system's 14 schools, implemented based on recommendations from lawyers.

Slippery Rock had no weapons policy before the present one.

“We have students who hunt. They used to lock up their rifles with the school police,” Schwab said.

Adoption of weapons policies comes amid challenges to blanket bans at various U.S. universities.

“There have been threats of potential lawsuits,” said Ken Marshall, a spokesman for the state system. “The system is looking at developing a uniform policy, but more time is needed.”

Supporters and opponents of gun control both share contempt for policies like Slippery Rock's, which they say are simply crafted to avoid lawsuits.

“The policy is illegal. It is also a resolution in search of a problem,” said Kim Stolfer, president of Firearms Owners Against Crime.

Stolfer said the state system's schools won't be any safer if the policy becomes rule.

“If this policy passes, we will see a mass shooting. Gun-free areas are places where criminals know people won't have guns,” he said.

Under Pennsylvania law, people 21 and older who are licensed to carry a concealed weapon can carry them in vehicles and on their person in public places, except for primary and secondary schools, courthouses and casinos.

Some advocates of fewer gun restrictions at state universities say the schools do not have the right to ban weapons on public property. Opponents differ.

“That's a legal argument I'd like to see made,” said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFire PA.

“Weapons are banned in courts, government buildings and the state legislature itself. There are public spaces and buildings where guns do not belong.”

Goodman also said the policy as proposed would create problems.

“We all know that college students party. Do we really want to add guns to that mix?”

Requiring people carrying a gun on campus to put it in their car or somewhere else before they enter a building is problematic, Goodman said.

“And now everyone knows that there will be guns in cars at these schools. What happens when a gun stolen from Slippery Rock is used in a crime?” she asked.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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