Fight uneeded guns in Ames

Living in a college town, Ames High students are exposed to many university issues, some of which may have a profound effect on their lives. Students spend time on campus during the weekends, and many take classes at ISU during the week. Therefore, The WEB believes that it is essential for AHS students to be aware of the debate over arming campus police officers, and why the proposal is misguided and dangerous. The controversy began to grow this spring after the Virginia Tech killings, and has been in the news throughout the summer. The Iowa Board of Regents initially decided on September 18 not to vote on the issue, but is expected to vote on it October 30 or 31. Unfortunately, we at The WEB feel that most discussion thusfar has been too quick to bless the idea of DPS officers carrying firearms, and has not adequately assessed the risks of this possibility. Proponents of arming the DPS claim that it would provide for a faster, more decisive response to situations such as the one at Virginia Tech. While this argument is initially convincing, one must note that Virginia Tech officers were armed, and it still took them two hours to close in on Cho Seung-Hui. Many people also aren’t aware that campus police are already authorized to use firearms in extreme situations, where they are dealing with dangerous individuals. Usually, they will also receive quick backup from the Ames Police Department. In a June 1 memo to President Geoffroy from the campus security personnel, it is noted that this authorization has been used at least 6 times in recent memory. Therefore, the debate is not really about whether the DPS can use firearms in unusually dangerous circumstances, but whether they will be allowed to carry them on regular patrol duty. It is not difficult to foresee the unnecessary risks this would create. In an April 25 Opinion piece published in the Iowa State Daily, columnist Aaron Gott admitted that while, “a situation like the one at Virginia Tech is unlikely at Iowa State,” campus officers should still be prepared for “everyday risks” such as “approaching a driver during a routine traffic stop, knowing very little about them.” Gott’s assessment underscores everything that is wrong with the argument for arming officers. While it may be well-intentioned, telling police officers that they are now able to carry arms to be prepared for such situations is implicitly giving them permission to use firearms in such situations. And having that implied consent is a natural gateway to useage. Finally, one should also note that even in situations that do not warrant gun use, DPS officers are still able to carry disabling tasers on duty. While the mortality risk of these weapons is currently being investigated by the National Institute of Justice—making them another issue altogether—the essential point is that campus police are hardly rendered helpless. The WEB realizes that all parties involved simply want to make the ISU campus safer. However, increasing the number of potentially fatal weapons on campus is neither a logical nor prudent way to promote safety. The risks are just too high.