Since the Virginia Tech tragedy, students across the country have been thinking about ways to stay safe on college campuses. In response, many college administrations made student safety on campuses a top priority - schools installed extra swipe-card systems, legislation was written and enacted. But is it enough?
One particularly vocal student group at James Madison University has illuminated a previously downplayed component of student safety - the inability of public safety officers contracted by some universities to carry firearms.
These students staged a reenactment of the events that occurred at Virginia Tech, reigniting a national debate when they sought to prove gun-toting officers would secure the nation’s campuses. It is a question that merits some consideration - would we be safer at AU if our Public Safety officers carried guns?
While it’s true that D.C. can be a dangerous place, AU is sheltered from most of the truly violent crimes. The need for AU’s Public Safety officers to have access to lethal force has not been demonstrated.
Despite the occasional testosterone-fueled fight, AU’s campus is normally peaceful and safe. Public Safety officers have shown their ability to handle most situations on campus, and in extenuating circumstances a little assistance from the Metropolitan Police Department should suffice.
The possibility of preventing one unforeseen disaster is not worth an officer mistakenly using his weapon. There are countless instances of officers, no matter how well trained, making mistakes - this is a risk not worth taking.
The presence of weapons will not make students safer but will more likely add danger by their very presence.
Those who argue more guns will prevent a Virginia Tech-like disasters in the future misunderstand the nature of the modern assailant. Those who truly desire to do harm will find ways to do so, either by striking differently or by going after Public Safety officers first.
It is impossible to plan for every contingency and just as impossible to completely prevent malevolent or destructive behavior. Allowing Public Safety officers to wield guns will only make this campus more dangerous.