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MSU allows people to carry concealed firearms on campus

June 21, 2009

Although guns remain prohibited from MSU campus buildings, those with concealed weapons permits now can carry a firearm through campus, following a MSU Board of Trustees vote Friday.

MSU’s rules prior to the board meeting, which completely banned guns from campus, were changed to match those of the county and state, MSU spokesman Kent Cassella said.

“The policy we have and the rules we have are not changing, just that one narrow portion, to better align with county and state law,” he said.

The trustees voted 7-1 to make the exception, with Trustee Colleen McNamara voting against it because of a concern the state was interfering with MSU’s independence. The state Legislature contradicts a prior decision made by the Board of Trustees to create an ordinance banning guns from campus, she said.

McNamara said MSU police were torn between enforcing the state law and enforcing the campus ordinance. She said the Board of Trustees does not want to fight state law over the issue and her vote was intended to be symbolic.

“I want to hold the thought. We did have an ordinance that said no guns on campus and maybe someday we will have a similar ordinance,” she said.

Although some students said they were uncomfortable with the change, others, such as apparel and textile design junior Jessica Stevens, said they supported the right to self-defense.

“I don’t really feel too great about guns in general, but I feel like people have a right to defend themselves, especially women, so whatever makes them feel safe is OK,” she said.

But human nutrition senior Eric Gurzelo questioned whether the change would make a difference.

“Looking at the Virginia Tech massacre, the first person shot was a professor who had a concealed weapon in his car,” he said.

The issue came up for vote because under MSU’s former ordinance, a person with a concealed weapons permit, which legally allows them to carry a weapon, would be issued a citation, Cassella said.

“Even though I might only have done a traffic violation, the police will have to write me another citation, even though I have a permit and did nothing wrong,” he said. “It’s kind of a catch-22.”

At the University of Michigan, guns still are completely banned, with the county prosecutor enforcing the ban, McNamara said. She said the prosecutor who handles crime on MSU’s campus did not prosecute people who violated MSU’s ordinance, instead siding with state law and prompting the board’s vote to change policy.

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