Guns on campus? Debate comes to UDM

University of Detroit Mercy student Derick Casier, the son of a police officer, grew up in a house with guns.

He is comfortable around them, knows how to use them and has a Concealed Pistol License (CPL) that permits him to carry a firearm most places.

Casier, a computer information systems major, would like the option of carrying his concealed weapon on the McNichols campus. But university policy prohibits guns on campus.

“Look at where most of the mass shootings have happened,” Casier said. “They have taken place in gun-free zones.  Whether it be colleges or movie theatres, they are in places people can’t defend themselves.”

In his view, a licensed firearm holder might be able to prevent or end an assault.

But, according to UDM’s Student Handbook, students are prohibited from possessing, using or storing a firearm anywhere on university property.

It’s not just students, either.

In response to a Varsity News inquiry, Letitia Williams, chief of Public Safety, furnished a copy of UDM’s Weapon-Free Campus policy, which applies to students, staff and visitors.

It states, “UDM strictly forbids the carrying of concealed weapons in UDM classrooms and dormitories, regardless of whether the individual is licensed to carry a concealed weapon and/or authorized by UDM to carry a concealed weapon.”

Students caught with weapons face expulsion, and employees can be fired, the policy states.

But a bill before the state senate would allow licensed holders like Casier to carry their firearms on public campuses. (The impact on private campuses, such as UDM’s, is less clear.)

Currently, gun owners also are prohibited from taking their guns to schools, bars, movie theatres and sporting events.

The proposed change in the law has provoked opposition from the University of Michigan, among others, and similar laws in other states have led to protests and the resignation of at least one professor.

“I don’t want to bear the increased risk of facing a student in my office that gets disgruntled and pulls a gun out on me,” said Daniel Hamermesh, a professor emeritus in Austin, Texas, who resigned.

A shooting in October at Umpqua Community College in Oregon that left nine dead has heightened the gun debate nationally – and locally at UDM.

The subject draws mixed views on campus

“Bringing guns on campus is a bad idea,” said junior Jarod Williams, a history major. “It just increases the risk of something negative happening. I don’t think college students and firearms would really mix well.”

Junior business student Michael Van Gundy said he has confidence in the ability of the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to react to any situation.

“We’re pretty safe here on campus,” Van Gundy said. “Security is pretty tight. With such a small campus, I feel it’s pretty hard for anything to go on here without DPS knowing.”

Casier, the licensed gun owner, does not dispute the value of the campus police force.

“Security here, and at many other schools, is great,” he said. “The problem is that CPL carriers forfeit their right to defend themselves when they step onto a college campus.”

Lariah Stevens, a senior in the criminal justice program, agrees.

“People should be permitted to carry guns on campuses as long as they have the proper license,” she said. “There is so much going on in the world today. … I don’t think it is a bad thing as long as they aren’t using it for the wrong things.”

Lezly Pruitt, faculty secretary in the College of Liberal Arts and Education, noted that though some people are reckless with guns, she believes many more gun owners who are responsible.

“As long as people are educated and properly licensed, they should be allowed to defend themselves,” she said.  “As for in schools and on campuses, the authorities should be made aware of those who choose to carry and keep a list to prevent any further problems.”

Casier noted that he feels that more training or retraining should be required to obtain firearm certification to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.

“I don’t know if there is any real solution to the issue,” Van Gundy said. “Both sides of the (gun rights) debate seem to have good solutions but nothing is ever done. Unfortunately, this could happen anywhere and I just hope it’s never here.”


VN editor-in-chief Jack Walsworth contributed reporting to this story.