On June 18, 34 Republican-led Oregon legislators petitioned for a change in campus gun rules at state universities. The letter urged the Oregon University System to let holders of Concealed Handgun Licenses carry guns on any university campus.
Oregon state gun laws allow only license-holders to carry guns in most public buildings, including universities. To obtain the license, one must go through an intensive 30-hour course and a background check that filters out unsafe applicants.
OUS prohibits the possession of guns on university campuses because its leaders believe students are generally safer without them. Although that may be true, its rule contradicts state law, which states, “only Oregon legislature can regulate firearms.”
Demic Tipitino, a member of the ASUO Senate and the College Republicans, opposes the OUS policy. “The OUS has no right to disobey the state and trump (the) legislature,” Tipitino said. “If they disagree with state law, the OUS should fight for a change, not simply disobey it.”
In their petition, the legislators wrote that OUS has delayed resolving this long-standing contradiction of the gun law with state legislation.
“We respectfully request you follow up on requests made earlier this year to change the policies at the Oregon University System to allow concealed handgun owners to carry firearms on campus as allowed by state law,” the legislators wrote.
This recent response is partly a reaction to the February arrest of a Western Oregon University student carrying a gun on campus, along with a license. Although his arrest was dropped, WOU’s student judicial panel still suspended the student for a term.
“This just hurts law-abiding citizens’ rights,” Tipitino said. “The government should trust a CHL holder enough not to deny their privileges.”
WOU Director of Public Safety Jay Carey said he agrees with OUS’ policy. He said his staff is still holding off on discussing the hearings surrounding February’s incident. “It is our stance that we support and abide by the rules and regulations promulgated through the University and the OUS system and will do so until they are either ruled inappropriate or are changed,” Carey said.
OUS spokesperson Di Saunders said state campuses benefit from the absence of gun-carrying students. “OUS believes it is in the best interest of students and the campus communities safety to keep this Oregon Administrative Rule in place,” Saunders said.
Rep. Kim Thatcher, one of the petition’s authors, said it ends with the following admonition: “As a result of this delayed action, we understand there may be lawsuits under consideration against the University System. We would hate to see protracted litigation, which would come at great expense to taxpayers. Instead we remain optimistic that the OUS will modify its policies to bring them in line with state law and look forward to your plan of action. A response would be appreciated by June 30th.”
It’s still uncertain what the outcome of this confrontation will be, although OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner and Thatcher said both parties involved are aiming for a swift conclusion.