Concealed carry weapon law raises safety concerns

Campus security at Mount Mary College

Paul Leshok, director of public safety at Mount Mary College, installs a sign on the entry doors of Notre Dame Hall to inform entrants that concealed weapons are not allowed in that building. The signs are required under the new concealed carry weapons law. Photo by NASTASSIA PUTZ

By BARBARA KOLB

The right to carry a concealed weapon in Wisconsin became legal on Nov. 1. The 2011 Wisconsin Act 35 bill was signed by Governor Walker on July 8, making Wisconsin the 49th state to allow its citizens to carry specific guns and weapons in a concealed manner.

The law permits Wisconsin residents over the age of 21 to carry a concealed weapon once they have received a license from the Wisconsin Department of Justice. To obtain a license a person must complete a required 4-hour firearms safety and training course, submit an application for a permit to the DOJ on or after Nov. 1, pass the DOJ’s background check, and pay the fees for the license ($37) and the background check ($13).

Restrictions on where a concealed weapon can be carried include police stations, beyond security checkpoints at airports, state parks, school zones, and more.

Colleges, however, do not qualify as a school zone. Therefore, many colleges in the Milwaukee area, including Mount Mary College, have been reviewing their weapons policy. Adjustments are being made in order to maintain the safest environment possible for students and staff within the confines of this new law.

Paul Leshok, Director of Pubic Safety at Mount Mary confirms that the college is complying with the new law. He said, “Regarding persons who will hold a valid concealed carry permit after Nov. 1, pursuant to state law, those persons are allowed to carry concealed weapons on the grounds of campus. Carrying of concealed weapons inside college facilities will be prohibited.”

The weapons policy for Mount Mary was approved by the President’s Council and has been published on the website. It states, “Firearms and other dangerous weapons are not permitted on campus, nor is there authorized storage space for them. Weapons are not allowed in any college building.”

Marquette University, according to the weapons policy published on their website, will continue to enforce their current policy “prohibit[ing] the possession of weapons in campus buildings, including both academic and office facilities and residence halls.”

UW Milwaukee recently posted a revised weapons policy on its website. It states, “Individuals are prohibited from carrying firearms and dangerous weapons into buildings or portions of buildings that are owned, occupied, or controlled by UWM.”

These three academic institutions are taking steps to ensure the safety of their students and staff while complying with the conditions of the new law. All will take advantage of their right to refuse admittance to anyone carrying a concealed weapon inside of a campus building by posting the required signage. Yet all will allow properly licensed people the right to carry a concealed weapon inside their vehicle when it is parked on campus or on their person when they are on grounds outside of campus buildings.

Student input on this new law varies. Brandi McNeil, a senior studying Video Game Animation at Mount Mary expressed concern about concealed weapons on campus and in vehicles.

“It makes me feel a bit unsafe because there are people that aren’t responsible, and it could fall into the wrong hands. Also there are people with tempers and sometimes this may cause violence on campus between students, and I don’t want to be walking into something that unsafe,” McNeil said.

Jeremy Polycn, a senior studying Mechanical Engineering at Marquette disagreed.

“It does not bother me that they carry them on campus. They will most likely need them walking from campus to their home/car,” Polycn said.

He explained his reasoning. “There are armed robberies, sexual assaults, [and] disorderly conduct occurring on campus…EXTREMELY frequently. DPS nor MPD catch the perpetrators, and they are almost never students.”

Mount Mary, however, does not deal with the level of crime on campus that Marquette incurs. Leshok is motivated to continue to maintain a high degree of safety on Mount Mary’s campus. His hope is, “With the cooperation of everyone on campus, it will continue to be safe.”

The debate over the safety of carrying a concealed weapon will continue, even after the law has gone into effect. Fortunately for college students and staff, their campus administrators are writing policies that they feel will best ensure safety on campus while adhering to the guidelines of the new Concealed Carry Weapon law.

Information regarding the law can be found at http://www.doj.state.wi.us/dles/cib/ConcealedCarry/ConcealedCarry.asp.

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