Richards: Is campus carry viable at CWRU?

Jason Richards, Staff Columnist

On Saturday, Nov. 3, a shooting took place on the south side of Case Western Reserve University’s campus on Murray Hill Road, next door to Cleveland’s Little Italy Historic District. Per CWRU police updates and messages, one undergraduate student was shot in the torso following an attempted armed carjacking. All students received text updates and emails from CWRU’s emergency messaging system. The student underwent surgery overnight and came through in a stable condition.

Following the tragic events in Pittsburgh the week prior, where 11 Jewish citizens were killed when a gunman entered a synagogue in the Squirrel Hill area and opened fire, these happenings have brought questions to communities nationwide about the root of violent acts in this country involving weapons.

After the shooting on campus, students received an alert via text message and email that CWRU Police had “added more officers to patrol the campus.” One second-year student living on South Side near the shooting says this “was an act of hindsight” and “that number of police should have been patrolling in the first place.”

There’s no telling if having this number of police initially could have prevented the incident, but this was a decision made in response to an event which the police should strive to prevent. In events like these, there are many “ifs” and “buts” to reflect upon, but now, what matters are the changes going forward to prevent it from happening again.

Students are not permitted to possess or use any item considered a weapon on campus per the Student Code of Conduct. Should this regulation be changed based on the events that unfolded this weekend? Should students legally certified to carry a firearm be able to arm themselves on campus as an act of protection for themselves or others?

I conducted interviews with several students concerning this question. The responses were mixed.

One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, agreed that allowing students to arm themselves would “make [the campus] more dangerous.” Another student stated that “if they’re [going to] say no [to allowing students to carry guns], then they have to step up their security” in a way to make up for the students’ safety.

In opposition, one interviewee responded by stating that carrying a weapon on campus was okay “for concealed carry … as long as someone has [the firearm] responsibly, legally, is trained with that specific firearm and [is] certified with that firearm.”

CWRU President Barbara Snyder said in a livestream the Sunday after the shooting that “a 2016 study by Johns Hopkins found that campuses that allow guns actually had more gun violence, not less.” Continuing, she noted that “they had more shootings, more homicides and more suicides than campuses that do not allow guns.” Regarding allowing guns on campus she said, “it’s something that we can continue to discuss, but the research that is available—and we think the best research—shows that the campus is safer by prohibiting guns than by allowing them,” standing by the university’s Student Code of Conduct.

The University as a whole has learned a great deal from this incident. Through these mixed responses, I was able to see both sides of the argument, but one struck me as more appropriate for our campus.  

Whichever side you agree with, an increase in campus security is definitely required. In the weeks following the incident, CWRU has assigned security officers to the bottom and top of the hill on South Side near the location of the incident. Snyder included in an email following the incident that “additional vehicles providing Safe Rides” were put in place, “with plans to add more by the middle of [the following] week.”

It’s important to note that changes are in fact being made from what we’ve learned from this incident. I believe campus carry is not a viable option in response to this incident. The changes being made are increasing the safety of students in areas where arming students cannot.

The updated security measures will ensure safety, while also helping to prevent another shooting based on misunderstanding or reflex.

Jason Richards is a second-year computer science major. He enjoys programming, biking and spending his money at Chipotle.