VCU's prohibition of concealed weapons on campus was the focus of a student debate Wednesday in the Commons Plaza.
Three students, Jay Forehand, Russell Altizer and Jonathan Cencich, debated on the panel in favor of allowing concealed weapons on campus.
"At the end of the day, we all want to be safe," Forehand said. "Are we responsible enough to protect ourselves or do we have to rely on others? We feel that relying on ourselves is the best chance to protect ourselves.
"Unfortunately, the university disagrees with me and the state," Forehand said. "I am not prepared to trust the university with my safety."
VCU is the only public school in the state that does not allow licensed, concealed firearms on campus, according to the panel. According to VCU Rules and Proceedures, the weapons policy prohibits staff and students from carrying any type of weapon or firearm, including concealed weapons. This extends not only to students, but anyone visiting VCU's Monroe Park and MCV campuses.
Those on the opposing side, who upheld VCU's current regulations that students should not be allowed to carry concealed weapons, consisted of Emad Maghsoudi, student body vice president, and students Jeff Lassahn and Michael Gilbert, both representing the student organization International Students for Social Equality.
"The United States is not a democracy," Maghsoudi said, "but it is a constitutional republic. The truth is Virginia has given the university the choice (of whether to allow concealed weapons or not) depending on their location." Forehand said he disagreed.
"We are in an urban environment we have to walk from the parking deck to class," Forehand said. "That's why there is a need (for concealed weapons)."
Speaking in favor of on-campus guns, Cencich said VCU's regulations about on-campus weapons make it difficult for students and non-students to figure out exactly where the campus begins or ends.
"(The campuses are) especially large, and (it's) hard to figure out if you are on or off campus, especially for non-VCU people," Cenchich said.
As the students debated the topics, Kevin Allison, associate dean of community activities for the College of Humanities and Science, moderated responses and time limits. Allison opened the floor for students to ask questions, and the mood seethed with controversy.
"How long are you willing to wait for VCU Police to answer (your call for help)?" said Matthew Schaefer, a maintenance engineer for MCV, who approached the panel. "One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi," he said, raising his voice for emphasis and continuing to count to eight.
Jessica Lee, Monroe Park Campus student body president, who was assisting with the debate, reached for the microphone, but Schaefer walked away, continuing to talk amid instructions from Allison to stop speaking.
Schaefer was eventually seated. After all the disruption, Maghsoudi deferred not to answer the question, saying he was scared Schaefer was legally allowed to carry a concealed weapon, amid laughter from the crowd.
Altizer, an advertising major speaking in favor of on-campus guns, said he has a T-shirt that says, "I carry a gun because I cannot carry a police officer.
"It does not take a while to get mugged or (to get shot)," Altizer said, "but it does take a while for the police to respond."
Another attendee, a female student who said she has a 4- year-old child and a concealed weapons license, said she has tried relying on VCU Escort Services late at night, but last time she used the service, it took almost an hour for someone to arrive. The student also said she and her friends were recently attacked at midnight and called the VCU Police but never saw them.
"The law means nothing when my life is on the line," she said.
"This is a very personal issue. This is a very emotional issue," Maghsoudi said in response. He said more governmental control is necessary instead of allowing students to carry guns.
About 50 students attended the debate, each attending for various reasons.
"It's an interesting debate post-Virginia Tech. This is a big issue around campus," said Bryan Galloway, a junior studying homeland security and emergency preparedness.
Galloway said not allowing individuals to carry weapons on campus "may be an ill-advised decision," in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings.
Before the debate ended, Allison gave each side three minutes for a closing statement.
"We firmly believe the way to address these issues is to address the social causes," Jeff Lassahn said.
"The problem is not solved by taking guns out of the equation," Althizer said.
Source: Commonwealth Times