Students, faculty and staff voice their opinions on whether concealed carry should be allowed on campus
by Alexandria Hentschel
Ohio will soon become one of 24 states that allows universities to decide whether concealed carry permits should be allowed on campus, a change that has brought about much discussion at Cedarville University.
Gov. John Kasich signed Senate Bill 199 on Dec. 19 that lifts the ban on concealed firearms in “vulnerable areas,” namely on college campuses. The trustees of the institutions may now decide whether or not to allow concealed carry permits on their campus. The law takes effect on March 21.
Several colleges have spoken out against the bill, including Ohio State, where allowing concealed carry is “not under consideration,” according to spokesman Chris Davey.
The policy has not changed at Cedarville; concealed carry is not permitted on campus. Only the trustees can change the policy. University president Dr. Thomas White provided an official statement on the current status.
“At this point, Cedarville University has not changed its policy, which means that faculty, staff and students are not allowed to carry firearms on campus. Only the trustees can change the current policy, and if they do so, any changes will be communicated to the campus community in a timely manner.”
The issue is certainly under discussion, however, as evidenced by chapel on Jan. 26, in which White asked five trustees their thoughts on the possibility of faculty, staff or students carrying concealed guns.
Rev. Chip Bernhard, senior pastor of Spring Creek Church and chairman of the board, said the issue was going to be addressed at the trustee meeting in January, though he did not expect a final decision to be made soon.
“It’s discussed and thought and prayed about a meeting or two before we actually have to make a final decision,” he said. “However, I don’t think it’s likely that we will move in the direction of all students having concealed carry. I think it’s likely to be faculty and staff and administration [carrying].”
White highlighted the main reasons that students will likely not be permitted to carry: storage and safety issues in the dormitory and liability issues with insurance.
Dr. Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Cedarville trustee, stated he requires his vice presidents, deans and at least three people in every building to carry at Southwestern in Fort Worth, Texas.
“I think it is incumbent upon the school in this kind of a day when you can have a shooter — even as unlikely as it is as they would find Cedarville, Ohio,” he said. “It could even happen here, and you must have protection.”
Currently, only certain campus safety officers are allowed to carry on campus. It is an open carry and is not mandatory for all officers. To carry they must obtain certification from the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission. According to Doug Chisholm, director of Campus Safety, officers must have “skills in the areas of human relations, crisis management, decision making and good judgment skills” in order to carry. Student officers are never permitted to carry.
Cedars conducted a student-wide survey to see how students felt about the possibility of the concealed carry policy changing on campus. The administration also conducted a survey among faculty and staff to gather their opinions. The majority opinion of both surveys was in favor of concealed carry permits on campus in a limited capacity.
Professor Jim Leightenheimer, associatse professor of communication arts at Cedarville, said concealed carry should be permitted for faculty and staff if the policy is correctly implemented.
“In my opinion, the approach that the university is contemplating on limiting concealed carry to faculty and staff makes sense,” he said. “They are employees who can be held responsible for training if they are a designated carrier. Obviously, the environment of the dormitory might make security of a personal firearm much more difficult.”
Eric Hinson, senior electrical engineering major, agrees that faculty and staff should be permitted to conceal carry on campus. However, he also believes students over 23 should be permitted to carry due to their age and maturity, and that there should be additional training and rigorous vetting for students with concealed carry permits.
“I think it’s a really good idea,” Hinson said. “You’re in a very condensed environment where a lot of times you’re sitting down, and no one’s facing the door. It would be very easy for someone to come in and just start shooting.”
Rebecca Murch, freshman industrial and innovative design major, said she believes select students as well as faculty should be able to conceal carry on campus.
“I believe it’s important to maintain the safety and well-being of individuals on campus, and I’m a strong supporter of the second amendment,” Murch said. “I believe that we all have the right to defend ourselves. I think that involves being able to possess a gun if you are mentally and physically capable and responsible.”
Leightenheimer said additional restrictions, including a rigorous application process, additional screening and continuing qualification classes on a semester-by-semester basis should be implemented if concealed carry permits are allowed on campus.
“So just to make sure that people are qualified and that they’re qualified and checked by people here, there should be a lot of accountability and ongoing training,” Leightenheimer said.
Hinson disagrees with Leightenheimer and said there should be few additional requirements for faculty to carry beyond the permit.
“I think there are very few professors here that either students don’t respect or aren’t well within mental well-being,” Hinson said. “I don’t think putting extra measures on professors to carry is the right decision.”
Murch believes the vetting process used to obtain a concealed carry permit is not sufficient for faculty and staff to carry on campus.
“Although most of our professors are mentally and physically capable, and Cedarville’s very good at choosing who they put in leadership and teaching positions, I think that being able to use a gun is different,” she said. “They should have more training.”
Leightenheimer, Murch and Hinson said there is a need for concealed carry on campus at Cedarville.
“I think it’s better to be prepared and not have to use it, than to wish something had been done prior,” Leightenheimer said.
Both Leightenheimer and Murch referenced the attack at Ohio State University in November of 2016 as an example of the increase of terror attacks at universities. Murch expressed her concern that something similar could happen at Cedarville.
“I think we need it because there’s a continually growing threat, particularly with regards to terrorism in America,” said Murch. “The most vulnerable places are places without guns or any form of weaponry — places like Cedarville. If we have guns, then the threat will decrease. There’s less of a chance of us being harmed.”
Hinson believes that due to the lack of guns on campus, the response time for emergencies will be significantly delayed, especially during busy times of the day.
“I feel that someone who has a bone to pick might target Cedarville especially because of our Christian stance,” he said.
Not all faculty, staff and students see a need for or desire guns on campus though.
Timothy Mattackal, junior finance and accounting major, said he believes concealed carry should not be permitted on campus under any circumstance due to the lack of need, as well as safety concerns.
“When I see a gun the immediate feeling I have is not one of being more safe,” Mattackal said. “The thought of being in the immediate vicinity of a device whose sole purpose is to kill makes me very anxious. Is Cedarville really such a dangerous place that we require faculty and staff to carry firearms on campus to guarantee our safety? If that is the case then I think there is a serious problem which needs to be addressed and the proliferation of guns on campus will do nothing to accomplish that.”
The trustees are still carefully weighing these concerns and will announce when a decision has been made.
Alexandria Hentschel is a freshman international studies major and an off-campus news writer for Cedars. She enjoys old books, strong coffee and honest debate.