Yesterday, my school, Villanova University, announced that it will add armed police officers to its campus, beginning in Fall 2016. The decision follows a two-year study by a university task force and work by an independent consultant.
The Catholic university currently has a 75-member public safety department, responsible for patrol, investigations, parking enforcement, residence hall and building security, crime prevention and special-event security.
But the department’s security officers can’t use lights or sirens when responding to an emergency on the 260-acre. They can’t stop, question or detain anyone without the individual’s permission. They don’t carry guns or any other defensive equipment. They do not have direct radio communication with local police departments, which can hinder communication in an emergency. And they lack access to local law enforcement databases, which could help in an investigation.
Under the new arrangement, 19 members – about 20 percent – will become armed officers, who will have completed police academy training. Eventually, two or three officers will work with campus security officers during any given shift, the school said. All Public Safety personnel will also receive conflict resolution, anti-bias and sensitivity training.
According to the press release, nearly 70 percent of college and universities have police officers on their campuses (including Boston College and Notre Dame University), and 94 percent of those officers are armed.
While I have expressed my disdain for guns before, I guess this solution is better than the law that was passed in Texas that will allow students and faculty to carry concealed handguns into classrooms, dormitories, and other campus buildings.
The results of several research studies involving firearms are summarized on the Harvard School of Public Health web site. One article that reviewed the academic literature on gun ownership found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries.
John Fry, president of Drexel University, wrote a thoughtful piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday titled, “Allowing guns won’t make campuses safer“. While Drexel does allow its police officers to carry guns, Fry notes that “It defies logic to think that allowing students, faculty, and administrators to carry guns will somehow make college campuses safer.”
Fry goes on to state that “…the best answer to the recent shootings on college campuses is fewer guns, not more. Witness how strict gun laws in other developed countries have resulted in fewer deaths by firearms.
Short of that, the best way to reduce campus shootings is to increase efforts to identify and treat disturbed students, while preventing them from buying guns. A well-trained, well-equipped campus police force is also critical to campus safety.”
So add Villanova to the list of schools that now allows its campus security to carry firearms. My hope is that this will be the extent of guns on our campus.
I also hope those guns will never be used.