Empty holsters gain attention

Students wearing empty holsters have gained full attention at Oakland University. OU Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, which was officially approved as a student organization Monday, has been demonstrating on campus since last week and will continue through Thursday.

“My hope is to educate everyone about the laws that already exist concerning concealed pistol carry,” said Jeffrey Lamkin Jr., the organization’s president. “My goal is to help ease some of the anxiety that most people feel toward firearms.”

Demonstrators stood outside the Oakland Center, between the foundation halls Monday, wearing empty holsters. They talked to students about their position and displayed two signs.

One listed the number of people that have died from gun-related incidents at 18 schools with “gun-free zones.” The other read: “Signs can’t stop acts of violence. Armed citizens can.”

According to the group’s website, concealedcampus.org, SCCC plans a similar week-long demonstration every spring to protest laws and ordinances that limit concealed carry. The group now has 11 chapters in Michigan.

Mary Beth Snyder, Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, sent a campus-wide e-mail on April 1 that warned students about the possibility of such demonstrations.

“As a university community we certainly encourage the free exchange of ideas and open dialogue on important societal issues,” Snyder wrote in the statement. “However, there is a right time, place and manner of doing this and we will ensure that the rights of everyone on campus are protected.”

Her statement was followed the next day by OU President Gary Russi and Senior VP for Academic Affairs and Provost Virinder Moudgil.

Their statement went over current state law and touched on the university’s planned “crisis situation training exercise” scheduled for Friday.

State laws currently allow gun owners to openly carry legally registered firearms, but licensed individuals are prohibited from carrying concealed pistols in university dormitories and classrooms.

Sen. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, introduced a bill in August 2009 to amend Senate Bill 747 to remove those areas from the list of prohibited premises. A similar bill was introduced in the House in September 2009 by Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City.

OU Chief of Police Samuel Lucido has lobbied to stop the passage of both bills and said OU and the OU Senate are too.

“It’s a matter of local control,” Lucido said. “Universities should maintain the right to establish reasonable rules and regulations regulating the possession of firearms on campus.”

The OU student handbook states that weapons of any kind are not allowed on campus, except “occupants of single family residencies in the Meadow Brook subdivision and non-student university residences may possess firearms as permitted by law.”

Though Lucido said state law would supersede university law, Snyder said universities have the legal authority to create and enforce rules as they see fit.

“If a student were to be caught with a firearm on campus, that individual would be subject to a disciplinary hearing with possible sanctions” ranging from “a written warning up to expulsion,” Snyder said.

Lucido met with Lamkin and Randy Fullmer, VP of OUSCCC, on April 2 to discuss the group’s planned protest.

“Initially they decided to cancel the protests … primarily because they were aware of the anxiety in the community about these issues,” Lucido said.

Lamkin said they were only going to cancel their protests because they thought another group, Michigan Open Carry, Inc., was going to be demonstrating while carrying firearms on their person in open view. But after the president of MOC, who is not officially affiliated with OU, confirmed that they would not be holding campus protests, SCCC decided to go through with theirs.

Students have taken notice of those walking around with empty holsters.

“It did freak me out a bit, but I realized it was empty so I didn’t really think about it much more, but if there were to be a gun in there it would definitely freak me out,” said freshman business major Jessica Baroque.

Freshman studio art major David Friend, an SCCC member, said allowing individuals with a Concealed Pistol License to carry their firearms with no restrictions would deter criminals.

“People that want to do harm would think twice,” said Friend, who’s not yet old enough to get a Concealed Pistol License. To obtain a CPL, an individual must be 21 years of age and go through various gun safety courses.

Lamkin, who said he has had his CPL for over a year, said his goal is to educate people on gun safety.

“Most people don’t know the laws, or a lot about guns, which causes fear,” Lamkin said.

Freshman Dustin Davidson said he hunts and has no problems with guns, but doesn’t see the need to carry one.

“There’s a time and place for that kind of stuff,” Davidson said.

Nicole Peters, a freshman communication major, is against passage of the bills.

“Our campus is one of the safest in Michigan and we’re one of the only colleges here that have our own police department so why do people need to bring their guns here?” Peters said. “I also don’t like the idea because of the preschool that’s in Pawley. There shouldn’t be weapons around children.”

Lucido said he understands that people view this as a Constitutional issue and recognizes the Second Amendment, which protects the rights to bear arms.

“I just can’t see how openly possessing and carrying around firearms would not disrupt the perception of safety around the community and not disrupt that learning environment,” Lucido said.

OU Student Congress is holding a forum/information session on concealed carry on campus and the legislation pertaining to it Friday, April 16 from noon to 1:30 p.m. in Gold Room C.

— Intern Jamie Gasper contributed to this report

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