BY ADAM DeLAY
Capital News Service
LANSING – Concealed weapons carriers who are unsure whether it’s legal to tote a weapon on college campuses may soon get an answer.
It’s unclear whether current law allows colleges and universities to enforce firearms restrictions that are stricter than state or federal laws.
A bill by Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R- Traverse City, would let educational institutions impose tougher rules if violations aren’t treated as criminal offenses.
The bill would apply to both public and private colleges and universities. Colleges and universities would still, however, be able to regulate firearm possession by employees.
Schmidt said, “We want to make it clear that if you have a concealed pistol license and are not breaking state or federal law, then that’s legal,” he said.
William French, director of public safety at Lansing Community College, said his college has tougher restrictions on firearms than state law.
“State law does not allow firearms in dorms, sporting events or classrooms,” he said. “Where we take it one step further is that we prohibit students from carrying on campus.”
French said the restriction applies only to students, and that non-students who have a concealed pistol license (CPL) can carry a concealed weapon on campus.
“But if a student is caught with a weapon and has a CPL, he wouldn’t be arrested but would be subject to disciplinary action within the college,” he said.
Schmidt said the point of the bill isn’t to dictate what schools do with students who violate campus restrictions, but that other people with a CPL should be allowed to have a weapon on campus, “What the institution does with students internally is one thing, but this way both the student and the institution would not be in legal trouble.
“If you’ve gone through the training, you should be able to carry on the sidewalk or in your car,” he said.
Oakland University has a campus-wide ban on firearms.
Sam Lucido, chief of the Oakland University Police, said that the university is considered a municipality and its ordinances are considered law.
“University sanctions allow us to file charges against people who violate an ordinance,” he said.
Lucido said that he and the university oppose the bill.
“As a large public university with a Division 1 sports program, we have a large number of visitors on campus who aren’t students and we would prefer them not to have weapons of any kind,” he said.
“Also, larceny is a problem on campus. We see a lot of stolen laptops and cell phones, and I don’t want to add stolen firearms to that list.”
Schmidt said he doesn’t intend to loosen gun control laws. To the contrary, the bill would help gun owners follow current laws, he added.
“I’m not trying to make it so that there are guns in dorms or classrooms. We’re just making it so that people know what is and what is not considered breaking the law,” he said.
“If the goal is to keep weapons out of classrooms or stadiums, this would make it so a law-abiding CPL holder would be able to store their weapon in their car without having to worry about whether or not they’re violating the law,” he said.
The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Gary McDowell, D-Rudyard; Justin Amash, R-Kentwood; Andy Neumann, D-Alpena; Peter Lund, R-Shelby Township; and Kenneth Kurtz, R-Coldwater. It is pending in the House Tourism, Outdoor Recreation and Natural Resources Committee.
© 2009, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.