Who really needs guns?

A false sense of danger is on the loose in Portland. Oregon Health and Sciences University and the Portland Water Bureau have both requested that they be allowed to arm officers and have authority to make arrests.

A false sense of danger is on the loose in Portland. Oregon Health and Sciences University and the Portland Water Bureau have both requested that they be allowed to arm officers and have authority to make arrests. They aren’t asking for this because something happened recently to qualify a need to shoot at someone. In fact, the agencies both gave reasons that seem alarmist, potentially dangerous and may increase unnecessary intimidation.

According to the Portland Tribune, Gov. Ted Kulongoski signed a bill in August authorizing OHSU to train and commission officers at a state police academy and gave them authority to investigate and arrest, but not carry a gun as requested. The actual armed guards will be contracted by an existing law enforcement agency instead.

One reason OHSU officials are implementing this armed-guard policy is because it takes Portland police 15 minutes or longer to make it up the hill to the campus. They are concerned about a possible Virginia Tech-style massacre, but no one has really said why. On April 16, 2007, 33 people died on Virginia Tech campus from a lone gunman, the worst school shooting ever in the U.S.

The paranoia is puzzling. Why the fear mongering, OHSU?

I can’t imagine why on earth it takes police so long to get to OHSU, but as I have not timed the drive from the police station to the campus, I will just leave it at that. What happened at Virginia Tech was obviously a horrible atrocity committed by an extremely disturbed individual. It does make some people feel better if an authority figure has a gun to protect them, but that is a false sense of security. It’s really not possible to predict when and where these random shootings might happen. Just because there are armed guards doesn’t mean they will be in the right place at the right time to shoot such a person before anyone gets hurt. In fact, it seems quite unlikely.

Not only does it seem unnecessary to have these armed guards at OHSU, since nothing has happened to warrant them, but it could potentially be dangerous to patients. There are frequently mentally unstable patients treated at OHSU. This could definitely cause more problems than it might prevent.

Jason Renaud, the Mental Health Association of Portland’s board secretary, was quoted in the Portland Tribune as saying, “Guns around persons with acute mental illness coming in for treatment are not a good mix.” He also calls concerns about a mass shooting at OHSU ridiculous.

Gary Granger is the public safety director for OHSU. He is tired of people not respecting his authority. He is in favor of the new changes and the power he will now have. Granger was quoted in the Portland Tribune as saying, “You probably don’t appreciate how many times people look at us and say, ‘You’re not the real police.’ What changes is that on my uniform will be a little label that says ‘police’.”

Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard also wants the Water Bureau patrols to be able to make arrests and carry guns, even though nothing has happened to warrant this, either. According to David Shaff, Commissioner Leonard’s water administrator, the bureau needs a way to handle trespassers and terrorists capable of harming the city’s water supply. This is extremely alarmist and I can’t help but wonder…what terrorists? Is Portland suddenly a major target? I think not.

Currently, if someone is trespassing near a water source, the Water Bureau patrols call the police, but if the location is remote, it can take awhile to make an arrest. Leonard believes these guards need more authority and guns. He says, “People do stupid things and I want my folks to have the ability to take action.”

Generally, misdemeanors like trespassing or even vandalism don’t warrant shots fired. The limited amount of crimes committed at the water sources are of this nature, not violent crimes in which guns are a necessity in apprehension.

According to Willamette Week, in June 2008, two people jumped into the Mt. Tabor reservoir and were arrested by police for trespassing and the charges were later dismissed. This is not a serious crime, and the only possible difference a gun would have made in this situation would have been unnecessary intimidation. Nothing is wrong with the current system of Portland Police Bureau and the Water Bureau working together.

There is absolutely no need for armed guards at OHSU or for Water Bureau patrols. It is completely unnecessary, and potentially dangerous. Any time guns are added to situations, where there were previously none, the danger factor increases.