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Pa. Universities Say New Weapons Policy Needs Work

Clayton’s Hunting and Fishing in Horsham. (credit: Michelle Durham)

Clayton’s Hunting and Fishing in Horsham. (credit: Michelle Durham)

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A proposed policy to allow weapons in limited areas of the 14-campus Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education needs more work and won’t go before the system’s board later this month, officials said Thursday.

The system’s executive vice chancellor, Peter Garland, said after an hour-long session to collect comments about the policy that additional time will allow officials “to craft what is necessary and in the best interests of our universities.”

The draft policy would ban weapons in all buildings, at sports and similar events and at outdoor class meetings and assemblies. Guns generally would be allowed, for example, in outdoor areas and in parked cars.

Some critics, including the faculty union, said the policy was too weak and should be an outright ban, while gun rights supporters said it went too far and would endanger safety.

System Chancellor Frank Brogan said the national legal landscape was in flux, adding to the challenge of establishing a single policy.

“To say that this is an ever ongoing set of shifting-sand scenarios is probably an understatement,” he said.

Under the draft, the weapons policy would not apply to police. Violators would be “directed to leave or remove the weapon immediately,” and face unspecified “sanctions, discipline or other action as appropriate.”

Steve Hicks, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the union that represents about 6,000 teachers and coaches, said the proposed policy would be a burden to administer and endorsed a blanket ban on weapons. Hicks noted the schools often host children, and that weapons would not be a good addition to the binge drinking and drug use that can occur in students’ lives.

Enforcement could be a challenge, said Shira Goodman with CeaseFirePA, particularly if students end up keeping them in their vehicles.

“I can’t imagine that the PASSHE system wants to know that the guns that are leaving Pennsylvania and become crime guns started out in the parking lots of our universities,” Goodman said.

Garland read emails he said gave “a flavor” of the public input, including questions about the nature of the penalties if someone were to choose not to follow the policy. A commenter called gun-free zones “a killing zone,” and another asked why the system thinks disarming people would be a good idea.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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