There will always be a public debate over the issue of firearms and other weapons in our society. One aspect that needs no debate is the standing state laws regarding these weapons.
There will always be a public debate over the issue of firearms and other weapons in our society. One aspect that needs no debate is the standing state laws regarding these weapons. These laws are set up through our democracy in a civil way to govern ourselves. It is by following a democratic process that we have progressed so far as a nation and a state.
It is unfortunate that the Oregon State Board of Higher Education does not follow this philosophy and has decided to craft and enforce their own rules, regardless of their contradiction with state law.
According to the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the right of the people to bear arms shall not be infringed upon, and Article 1, Section 27 of the Oregon constitution echoes this decree. Exploring further into the issue, we find that carrying a handgun in public is legal so long as a person has a Concealed Handgun License. It keeps with such laws to allow carrying firearms in public buildings, such as a state university, according to ORS 166.370.
However, even though state law makes it clear that should a person obtain a CHL and thus may carry a firearm at a public university, it is policy at universities such as Portland State that firearms are not allowed. Such policies conflict with our laws and should not be instituted, no matter how well meaning they are.
Under OAR 580.022.0045, the Board currently holds a policy that no person shall carry a firearm on any university campus unless authorized by law. One would assume this implies that a person holding a CHL is perfectly within the law to carry their firearm.
However, in a letter to the PSU community on April 25, 2007, during the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, Chief of Campus Public Safety Michael Soto stated that “any students, faculty, staff or members of the public that bring weapons onto campus will be subject to discipline and possible criminal prosecution.”
Interpretation of this policy has been widely disputed as to whether a person holding a CHL can carry a firearm on campus. No clear answer has been determined.
Last year, Western Oregon University student Jeffrey L. Maxwell was found to have a handgun in his possession while on campus. Even though Maxwell had a CHL, he was arrested, only to later have the charges dropped. WOU still suspended Maxwell according to the Board’s policy.
The presence of firearms in a place of learning is a genuine concern. School shootings and other similar incidents are serious matters that surround this issue. Perhaps legislation should be produced to address this subject, but it should be done through democracy, and not through a state agency that bypasses the will and voice of the people. That is the only appropriate venue for such policies to be created, where Oregonians have the ability to weigh in. The Board has acted in conflict with Oregon law and should correct itself.
Emerging from this issue are also the topics of pepper sprays, Tasers and other defensive weapons. But these too are issues meant for the Oregon Legislature and not the Board, which should know its limits and not operate outside the confines of the law.