By Abigail Kelly, Senior Staff Writer
Guns could soon be allowed on some college campuses if House Bill 48, which passed in the Ohio House of Representatives this month, is written into law.
House Bill 48 gives universities the option to allow the concealed carry of handguns on college campuses.
The bill is meant to simplify various disparate gun laws in the state.
“What the bill did was cleaned up a lot of that law and basically made it easier for legal firearm owners to stay in compliance with the code,” said Ohio State Representative Wes Retherford.
The bill states that universities can make policies that work best for them regarding the concealed possession of firearms on campus, and the universities who create policies will have legal immunity if accidents occur.
Miami University Police Department (MUPD) Lt. James Bechtolt explained that Miami’s current policy prohibits all firearms, dangerous weapons and explosives.
Retherford said allowing concealed carry on campuses was a major debate because of the number of campus shootings that have occurred in recent years. However, Ohio’s representatives looked at statistics and legislation of other states such as Colorado and Idaho, and decided that the best way to handle it would be for each university to look at their own situation as opposed to mandating one policy.
“If we mandated it to allow it and things were working out at like say at Miami, Miami wouldn’t have any recourse to change it,” said Retherford.
Director of University Communications Claire Wagner said if the legislation is written into law, the Board of Trustees will decide if the current policy will change to allow guns. However, Wagner expects concerns if concealed carry weapons are allowed on campus.
“I think people would feel more afraid just to be on campus and know weapons may be around,” Wagner said. “That doesn’t mean they don’t know someone is carrying a weapon without a permit right now, but I perceive people would be uncomfortable.”
Wagner’s reasoning comes from an instance in April 2008 when students participated in an Empty Holster Protest. For a week, student gun owners wore their holsters to show that there were gun owners on campus and that they could be used safely.
Wagner said she remembers concerns.
“There [were] scared people on campus just seeing an empty gun holster,” Wagner said.
Junior Maddie Jordan said she thinks Miami is already a safe place, and does not think guns need to be carried on campus.
“I think it would make people feel more unsafe if they knew people could have guns, especially in a college setting,” Jordan said. “I wouldn’t want to know that my peers had a gun [on them].”