Pending legislation could allow guns on campus

By Gus Bode

University administrators are concerned about a bill in the Illinois Legislature that could give students the right to carry concealed weapons on campus.

The Family and Personal Protection Act, which is working its way through committees in the Illinois House of Representatives, would allow citizens with special permits to carry concealed firearms in public, including college campuses.

The bill would exempt elementary schools, churches and other institutions from the law – meaning carrying a concealed firearm on these premises will remain illegal.’ But college campuses, including SIUC, are not given exemption from the law.


Rep. Mike Bost said the university will still be able to set its own rules about carrying weapons on campus, but recognized such a rule would be difficult to enforce.

SIU spokesman Dave Gross said the university recognizes the potential threat in granting students the right to carry concealed weapons on campus and said administrators are pushing to add college campuses to the list of exempt locations.

‘Without an outright exemption, it would be very difficult to see a way where the university could regulate that,’ he said.

Bost said the law is necessary for Illinois.

According to the National Rifle Association, Illinois is one of only two states that do not allow people to carry concealed weapons under any circumstances.’

Bost said citizens would have to meet certain standards to be certified to carry a concealed firearm and the permits will not be easily available.

Director of SIUC Police Todd Sigler said he has serious doubts about the implications for campus security.


‘I’m not convinced that this belongs on a college campus,’ he said.

Sigler expressed concerns about the powers given to the university in the legislation.

As the bill is written now, it allows for sheriffs or city police departments to file objections that would keep certain citizens from obtaining permits necessary to carry concealed weapons, Sigler said. He said he thought that power should also be given to university police.

Sigler said restrictions within the bill, such as a 21-and-older restriction, would make it harder for students to carry weapons.

‘The majority of people on campus don’t even qualify the way the legislation is written.’ I’m concerned with others not having that opportunity,’ he said.

Some students were positive about the possibilities for the legislation.

Michael Raatz, a sophomore from Milwaukee studying computer science, said weapons are not bad, but people who use them without proper training can be.

He said allowing citizens to carry guns could actually be a deterrent against crime.

‘I think by taking (guns) out of the hands of law-abiding citizens, it would actually allow more access for the criminals,’ Raatz said.

Others were more skeptical about the benefits of the bill.

Rachel Ivey, a graduate student in English, said recent violence at other universities made her oppose allowing concealed weapons at SIUC.

She said she understood the need for protection, but didn’t agree with the legislation.

‘It’s a scary thought,’ Ivey said.

Gross said the shootings at Northern Illinois University has made the issue of guns on campus particularly sensitive. On Feb. 14, 2008, Steven Kazmierczak opened fired on a lecture hall at NIU, wounding 18 people and killing six, including himself.

Sigler said he did not think it would have helped if a student in the classroom had been carrying a weapon.

He said it’s one thing to shoot at a paper target.

‘It’s another to make judgment calls of life and death, and it’s hard to say how people are going to respond,’ Sigler said.

Barton Lorimor and Stile Smith contributed to this report.