Pittsburg State University police Chief Mike McCracken walks on campus on Monday morning. On July 1, 2017, the university must comply with a 2013 law requiring public colleges and universities to permit concealed weapons on their campuses. McCracken said that “a lot of planning and discussion” will go into deciphering what PSU will be able to regulate when it comes to weapons on campus.
PITTSBURG, Kan. — Don Viney, a musician in his free time, recently put pen to paper and composed an original song that outlined his philosophy on guns.
Fittingly, it’s called “Gun Philosophy,” and it includes lyrics such as: “Now that I’m a man, I have plans, but none includes a gun. Soldiers and police have my respect, but I’m not one. I don’t even shoot for fun.”
“I’m not in favor of concealed-carry anywhere; I just don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Viney, a philosophy professor at Pittsburg State University. “But especially on a college campus, I think it’s an invitation to trouble, and I think it’s inconsistent with the atmosphere of a college campus.”
The discussion of allowing guns on American college and university campuses has been renewed in recent weeks, following fatal shootings at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Northern Arizona University and Texas Southern University. The shootings have added a sense of urgency for Kansas educators who are studying ways to comply with a law that will allow concealed guns on public university classes in their state.
Kansas universities traditionally have had the authority to ban guns on their campuses. Pittsburg State University has done so, placing stickers on the doors at building entrances notifying visitors that concealed handguns that are otherwise allowed in the state are prohibited on its campus.
But that will change on July 1, 2017, when the university must comply with a 2013 law requiring public colleges and universities to permit concealed weapons on their campuses. Even two years ahead of that deadline, PSU officials are wrestling with the best way to comply with the law while maintaining a standard of safety for students and staff.
“We don’t have specifics yet,” said Mike McCracken, director of PSU police and parking services. “But we’re aware that it’s coming, and we’ll address it the best we can. It’s not for us to judge if it’s right or wrong; it’s what the law says.”
McCracken said that “a lot of planning and discussion” will go into deciphering what PSU will be able to regulate when it comes to weapons on campus. He has been having ongoing talks with police chiefs and safety directors at other Kansas universities in an attempt to create a level of consistency among higher education institutions in the state.
“I think that will be one of the important things for us, is what this means for us,” he said.
Of particular concern once the law goes into effect are events that draw large crowds, such as football games, McCracken said. And although the university has not encountered any active-shooter situations or gun-related crimes on campus, the allowance of concealed weapons could present a new set of challenges to safety officers, he said.
“It’s going to change the way we approach situations because of the understanding that someone could have a weapon,” he said. “And it just makes things more difficult for us when we respond.”
Students surveyed Monday by the Globe gave mixed opinions on whether they will welcome the new law.
The Pitt State Student Government Association is currently working with student groups at other public, four-year Kansas universities to develop a survey to gauge how students feel about permitting concealed weapons on campus, said Rachel Herring, a junior Spanish major and vice president of the group.
Herring said she hopes the discussion over the next two years will consist of how to train students to prepare for potential active-shooter scenarios and how to safely handle weaponry on campus settings.
“The state law is sovereign, and I think we should learn more about being prepared,” she said.
Senior Taylor Cole, a political science major and senator in the Student Government Association, said he doesn’t think he would carry a concealed weapon if he were still a student at Pitt State in two years when the new law goes into effect. But he said he would be glad to have the option, both for himself and for others that would wish to help prevent others from doing harm.
“I do think there might be more intensive training (that could be required) to get a permit, but overall I think it would be good to have some people who are licensed to carry a gun on campus,” he said.
Marcus Clem, a senior communication and Spanish major and Student Government Association senator, said he would prefer open-carry allowances rather than concealed-carry laws in most circumstances. But he added that he disagrees with the idea of allowing weapons on the Pitt State campus.
“I do not believe a concealed-weapon permit is going to improve security on campus,” he said. “I respect the Second Amendment, and I respect the right to bear arms. But at the same time, I do not agree with absolutists on that issue. I believe every constitutional right has regulations for a reason. ‘Don’t bring guns to school’ is one of those restrictions.”
Weapons, including guns, are also prohibited on the campuses of Missouri Southern State University, Crowder College and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.