Campus gun ban strengthened by state board

The State Board of Higher Education on Friday unanimously approved a rewording of a policy banning guns on college campuses, making it illegal for anyone who has signed a contract with a public university — faculty, students, ticketholders to sporting events — to possess a firearm on campus.

The revised internal policy was designed to sidestep legal issues with the former administrative rule, which was challenged by the Oregon Firearms Education Foundation, which asserted that the ban was unconstitutional.

The Oregon Court of Appeals sided with the nonprofit gun rights organization on the grounds that while the board did have the authority to regulate its property, the ban did not supersede state law, and was not within the board's purview.

"This is as close to what we had before as possible," said Diane Saunders, Oregon University System director of communications, speaking about the board's new policy. "We hope that the internal policies will bring us back to that spot where students can be in a safe, educational environment."

The revised policy allows the board to ban students, faculty members, vendors and anybody else with a "contractual relationship" with an OUS university from possessing a firearm, while not imposing a blanket ban that would impinge on state regulations.

The previous ban, which had been on the books since 1978, prohibited all firearms, explosives, dangerous chemicals and other dangerous weapons on all OUS campuses.

"I see no need for a gun," said Alex Hughes, 23, a sophomore music major from Medford. "I don't think there's a need to bring any weapons to a place of higher learning. ... If there were gangs all around, or violence all around, it would be different, but Ashland is a very peaceful town."

"I'm very much for the Constitution, I'm very much for the Second Amendment," added Hughes. "I believe in the right to your own body and your own opinions, as long as they don't hurt others."

The new ban includes individuals with concealed handgun licenses, Saunders added.

On-duty police officers are exempt from the ban, as are participants in university-sanctioned military programs such as ROTC, residents in family housing not owned by the school, participants in target-shooting events, and participants in campus police or public safety training.

"I think that guns shouldn't be allowed on campus at all," said Clare Parker, 20, a junior costume design major. "I just don't like guns in general. People are violent anyway, and guns just compound that ... guns are so permanent, guns are so serious. You can Taze somebody and they'll be a little frazzled, but you shoot somebody and they're not getting back up."

The revised policy came after the Court of Appeals upheld the Medford School District's internal policy banning firearms on school campuses, declaring that unlike an administrative rule, an internal policy did not preempt state law.

"If we lived in an ideal world, I don't think we would want firearms on campus," said Stephen Ross, co-director of Campus Public Safety. Ross added that his officers don't carry firearms, but are equipped with pepper spray and collapsible batons, and trained in self-defense.

"As a criminology major, I know that the rate of people getting shot is way lower than people would think," said Jamie Schimandle, 18, a freshman criminology and psychology double major from Sacramento. "I'm fine with campus security and the police force having them, but I'm a little worried about faculty and students having them. ... I can see the legality of it working out, but as a personal opinion, I'm a little nervous about it."

Reach reporting intern Nils Holst at 541-776-4368 or email

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