Have them, don’t use them

With gun violence in schools and in public places becoming a more pressing concern, many governing bodies have enacted policies that attempt to make law-abiding citizens feel safer. Though these policies are full of good intentions, they typically oppose citizens’ rights to defend themselves through the defensive use of a concealed firearm.

In March 2012, the Oregon University System enacted a policy that forbids any person other than on-duty law enforcement officers, public safety personnel and military program participants from carrying a firearm on university property.

For the most part, this is in agreement with Oregon statute 166.370, which states that no firearms shall be carried in any public building, except by officers of the peace or concealed firearm license holders. The conflict between the two is in regard to concealed firearm license holders who, while protected under the law, would still face punishment through the OUS.

These steps definitely prevent citizens, including students, faculty, passers-through and people experiencing homelessness or suffering from mental illness from having firearms on campus. Such rules might even make said groups feel safe, but they still don’t address the reality that if an individual makes the horrifying decision to go on a shooting spree, they’re unlikely to consider the rules.

With a student’s right to carry a defensive firearm squelched, it makes sense for the Campus Public Safety Office officers, whose job is to protect the student body, to be prepared for an event where lethal force might be necessary.

In order for CPSO to legally carry firearms for service purposes, they would need to be qualified as peace officers or have the same qualifications as police officers. This would necessitate costly training, firearms purchase and upkeep. Spending sufficient quantities of Portland State’s money to train an armed police force would also require initial and continuous justification.

The crimes committed on the PSU campus for which discharging a firearm would be an appropriate response are nonexistent. According to the Clery Act report, the most common crimes at PSU are burglary and drug offenses. Even very uncommon crimes on the report like sexual assault and motor vehicle theft would not be appropriate times to use a firearm, save in the hands of someone fending off a forcible assault, which seems unlikely (though not impossible) to happen to a CPSO officer on duty.

It just doesn’t make sense to train and maintain a police force whose skills aren’t needed when the university is strapped for cash and tuition already causes the student body sufficient insomnia.

The thing is, a shooting spree is not a regular event. You can’t hire security for the one day you need it, and it doesn’t make sense to throw buckets of money into the insatiable black hole labeled “comfort and safety.”

All that being said, it also doesn’t make sense to me that a campus security officer who owns a concealed firearm license and carries responsibly for personal protection is allowed to carry a firearm when not on duty, but when working as a security officer must keep their weapon at home.

Having CPSO officers who possess a concealed firearms license carry a weapon of their own while on duty seems the logical and financially responsible course of action. This might sound irresponsible and naïve, but think about this: Until the OUS passed their gun moratorium, any student who had a concealed firearm license could legally have a gun while in a classroom. And yet there aren’t any rippling memories of gun violence at PSU.

I see no problem having CPSO officers carry their own firearms with licenses acquired on their own dime so that if an active shooter situation occurred someone on campus would be able to respond with the appropriate tools until better-equipped peace officers arrived. This is the only situation that I can conceive of in which discharging a firearm would be a suitable response.

Even with these very narrow parameters of use, it would be necessary for firearm-carrying officers to have special measures of accountability in order to protect themselves as well as the public from potential abuse of the weapon. In order to further this end, I propose that any officer who chooses to carry a weapon must also have the conduct surrounding the use of that weapon recorded on video and audio.

It’s very intrusive to record every carrying officer’s day, I admit. But with the events in Ferguson still fresh in the minds of the masses, I think this could be a good opportunity for public servants to reassert the earnestness of their service.

To be completely obvious, the problem with giving CPSO officers firearms isn’t actually them having the firearms at all. The problem is that some equipped and trained officer will think that using a firearm is an option that isn’t worth more than a millisecond’s consideration when it should be.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, a firearm is just not the tool for the job. If, however, an officer finds him or herself being fired upon then they should be allowed to defend themselves responsibly and accountably.