Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Universities Face Pressure to End Bans on Firearms

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Universities Face Pressure to End Bans on Firearms

Article excerpt

At first, Edinboro University's director of communications said his school "does not really permit guns on campus," even under its revised weapons policy.

Only after a point-by-point discussion of those rules did Jeffrey Hileman acknowledge in one-word answers this week that "No," there is no language barring someone from carrying a gun in open campus spaces, and "Yes," that represents a change from six months ago.

In a debate about personal safety and Second Amendment rights that is hot with emotion, a university can face anger no matter what it says. So perhaps not surprisingly, some of Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities -- under pressure to end campuswide firearms bans -- are choosing their words carefully on an issue that could become a distraction in the week leading up to spring commencement at those schools.

California University of Pennsylvania, one of seven State System schools that no longer bars weapons in open spaces, declined to discuss the matter Tuesday. Spokeswoman Christine Kindl referred inquiries to the State System of Higher Education, whose attorneys set the changes in motion last year by advising those schools that campuswide bans were not legally enforceable.

The lawyers acted after individuals, including at least one student, questioned existing campus rules, officials said.

Kenn Marshall, a State System spokesman, said the top priority of each university remains the safety of students, employees and visitors. He said the policies, even with the changes, still forbid firearms in campus buildings or at university events and are intended "to the extent possible under the law to keep guns off campus."

Along with Edinboro, Cal U and Slippery Rock University, Lock Haven, Millersville, Shippensburg and Kutztown recently amended their policies, Mr. Marshall said.

The changes, made at some schools months ago, attracted limited attention even on the campuses. But in the days after Kutztown changed its policy April 19, word began circulating among faculty and eventually social media, leading to a flurry of inquiries from the public and media late last week.

On Friday, Guido Pichini, chairman of the State System's board of governors, asked schools to postpone any further changes in weapons policies so a task force looking at campus safety can review the matter. …

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