While Stony Brook University’s rules regarding guns will remain the same, other colleges in the nation are being pushed to make surprising changes in their policies on weapons.

Recent incidents of gun violence that have dominated the media and shootings at schools in the past few years, have led a continuing debate on keeping guns off of campuses. However, some organizations are petitioning— and succeeding—to ease gun restrictions to allow students to defend themselves in case of an attack.

Twenty-four states allow colleges and universities to make their own policies regarding the carrying of concealed weapons, according to the National Conference of State Legislature’s website. New York is one of the 21 states that ban it completely. The New York State Penal Law, which is the body of New York law that deals with crimes, states that the unauthorized possession of a weapon on the grounds of an educational institution is illegal.

SBU’s current policy regarding weapons, which was last updated in 1996, states that “shotguns, rifles, firearms, or any device capable of use as a weapon by release of noxious material or projectile, shall not be carried on the campus”. The only exceptions to this policy, and to the NYS Penal Law, is for members of the military and law enforcements agencies who are on official duty or employees who are fully licensed to carry a weapon and are approved by their employer to do so if they have to perform job duties like transporting money.

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SBU Chief of Police Robert Lenahan said the policy has recently been updated and is waiting to be approved, but that it will remain basically the same as the current one.

Discussion about this topic has been fueled by recent fatal gun violence on college campuses. In 2007, a student killed 32 and wounded 23 others when he opened fire at the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. In 2008 at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., a former student killed five, injured 21 and then committed suicide when he brought three handguns to campus.

These incidents have motivated individuals to push for a change in policies at their schools. Students for Concealed Carry is one of the organizations that is fighting for less restrictions on gun use on college campuses. The organization was started after the Virginia Tech shooting and wants to both educate the public about the misconceptions of concealed gun carrying on college campuses and push administrations to change their current policies.

The group believes that “recent high-profile shootings and armed abductions on college campuses clearly demonstrate that ‘gun free zones’ serve to disarm only those law-abiding citizens who might otherwise be able to protect themselves,” according to the organization’s website.

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An article published in the Wall Street Journal in September said that in 2008 only one school allowed students to carry guns. Five campuses now allow it, the article said.

Recently, 25 states have proposed bills to allow concealed carrying of weapons by students. However, laws were only passed in Mississippi and Wisconsin.

Opponents to these organizations say that allowing people on college campuses to carry weapons could cause more harm than good between the risks for bystanders if students attempt to stop a shooter and if guns are misused under the presence of alcohol and drugs. The organization Gun Free Kids is working to stop legislation that would allow for the concealed carrying of guns on campuses. According to its website, over 345 colleges have joined their campaign, including SBU.

Nabeel Nazir, a sophomore biochemistry major, agrees with the views of Gun Free Kids.

“I don’t think weapons should be allowed on campus because if students have them handy they might be more prone to using them in situations that aren’t life threatening,” Nazir said. “What are the chances of a student who has a weapon coming in contact with a shooter? There are better people at the university to deal with these situations.”

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Members of SBU’s police department agree with this.

“I am opposed to the concept of allowing students to carry weapons on the Stony Brook campus,” Lenahan said. “In fact, I see additional dangers associated with accidental discharges, as well as the possibility that legal firearms may fall into the wrong hands. While incidents like Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois are extremely unfortunate, they are very rare and there is little evidence that individuals without proper training could mitigate an active shooter scenario and minimize the amount of potential victims.”

As far as being prepared in the event of a shooting, the university police department said that it has been extremely proactive in providing training to officers on what to do if an active shooter is on campus. The university police department has also participated in preparation exercises with local law enforcement agencies like the Suffolk County Police Department.

SBU’s police department is also a member of the university’s Behavior Assessment Committee, which works to prevent campus shootings by helping to identify students that may be troubled. Lenahan said that although instances of illegal firearms on campus are extremely rare, the campus police take the threat of those situations very seriously.

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