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    Firearms and Weapons Policies

    Firearms and Weapons Policies

    Is there a place for guns on campus? This is a not a question for the timid. Opinions are strong, and an increasing number of state legislatures are weighing in. Since 2013, increasing numbers of states have passed legislation allowing guns on public post-secondary campuses. Some of these laws broadly allow concealed carry; some include moderate restrictions; and others give the institutions the ability to opt-out or use discretion about allowing concealed guns on campus.

    Each institution should have a policy that directly addresses the possession and use of firearms and weapons on campus. For institutions that permit firearms and weapons on campus, the policy should clearly state:

    • The policy’s purpose
    • To whom the policy applies
    • Any restrictions on the use of weapons

    Guidelines for Drafting a Firearms and Weapons Policy 

    Keep the following in mind when drafting or revising your institution’s firearms and weapons policy:

    • Involve a multidisciplinary committee. Include input from campus law enforcement or public safety representatives, administration, legal counsel, student affairs, counseling and psychological services, campus medicine, faculty, and students. If the institution has multiple campuses, consider whether each campus needs a specific policy.
    • Work with legal counsel to analyze the state law. Determine requirements and possible exclusions. If your institution wishes to have exclusion zones, ensure that a defensible rationale exists for each zone. Review carefully the requirements for state or federally owned buildings.
    • Clearly state that the policy applies to all segments of your campus population. This includes students, staff, faculty, and visitors. Broad coverage allows your campus safety officials to enforce the policy easily and effectively without first having to determine whether it covers a certain person.
    • Include specific definitions for all weapons. This includes knives, crossbows, explosives, and fake weapons. The policy should address the use of pellet, plastic, or other such guns, as community members may not realize they fall under the weapons policy.
    • Identify the sanctions or discipline for policy violations. Leave room for flexibility based on a case-by-case review. Exceptions to the policy should be made on a case-by-case basis when deemed necessary by designated campus officials. Typical exceptions include campus safety officers, other law enforcement officials, and students when involved in specified school-sponsored activities such as ROTC or hunting clubs.
    • Encourage off-duty police officers from other jurisdictions to notify campus officials if they expect to carry firearms on campus. Generally, states allow police officers to carry their firearms in any jurisdiction regardless of whether the officer is on duty.
    • Work with campus law enforcement or public safety to develop explicit procedures for handgun storage options or requirements. Typically, these are separate from the firearms policy. Many schools have gun lockers in the campus safety offices, which allow for proper storage and prevent unauthorized students from gaining access.
    • If allowed under state law, consider including a statement about liability. Explain that concealed carry is allowed due to state law, not as a proactive decision by the institution.
    • Educate the campus community and all campus visitors about the policy. The policy must be published in all student and employee handbooks and should be publicized on the website and in postings around campus. Significant signage may be necessary to properly alert visitors to the policy requirements. Where permissible by law, implement mandatory or voluntary training for employees and students on the weapons policy and on procedures for safe handling and storage.

    Additional Information

    For examples of weapons policies, refer to the following:

    The George Washington University

    The University of Texas at Austin

    Baylor University

    Wichita State University