Shootings rekindle campus gun debate

The shootings at Virginia Tech earlier this week have reignited the discussion over the U’s uncommon gun policy.

The U currently allows gun owners to bring firearms on campus if they have a permit-most universities do not. The Utah Supreme Court ruled last fall that the previous policy prohibiting students and employees from carrying guns violated state law.

Students on both sides of the debate are once again revisiting the issue that put U leaders and state lawmakers at odds for nearly six years.

But administrators insist they aren’t looking to restore a gun ban.

“We’re not trying to revisit this issue,” said Fred Esplin, vice president for institutional advancement. “Right now, we’re not even having those conversations.”

Esplin said the only way the policy could change is if the Utah State Legislature revisits campus gun laws, an occurrence he deemed unlikely unless Utah’s “prevailing sentiment” on the issue flips. He said it is inappropriate to discuss the shootings in political terms.

“The dead have not been buried in Virginia?it’s really bad to be using this tragedy to advance a particular political stance,” Esplin said.

For some concealed weapons permit owners, the shootings at Virginia Tech — where students are not allowed to have guns on campus — illustrate the ineffectiveness of weapons bans.

“Incidents like this are a reason people should be allowed to (carry concealed weapons),” said Brent Tenney, president of the Second Amendment Students of Utah.

Others see the tragedy as a clear sign that a college campus is not the place for firearms. The comment “guns on campus — bad idea” was written in large print across a whiteboard in the Union lobby Monday, which was placed there for students to write their reactions on.

The U’s gun policy is also garnering national media attention. A camera crew from CNN’s “Paul Zhan Now” filmed a segment about the U’s stance on guns Thursday — the segment is scheduled to air Monday at 6 p.m.

Esplin was unsure how the attention would affect the U’s reputation — specifically faculty and student recruitment.

He said, however, that the gun issues could and may hurt the U’s overall ranking compared with other universities — popular ranking systems such as that of U.S. News & World Report are partially based on the way other institutions perceive a university.

Outside of Utah, Esplin said there are few public colleges that allow guns on campus.

“I don’t know of another place in the country (that allows concealed weapons on campus),” he said.