University of Rhode Island (URI) police responded to a call of a gunman on campus last week with pepper spray and batons, Major Stephen Baker of the URI Police Department and Community Relations Programming Officer Mark Chearino told Campus Reform. And that’s causing alarm on a state and national level.
Deputized campus police officers in Rhode Island are apparently prohibited from carrying firearms on public campuses, in accordance with rules handed down by the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education.
State police officers– who are allowed to be armed on campus– were still arriving roughly twenty minutes after the first call for help went out, reports add. Thankfully no shooter was found and no one was injured, but the situation “shouldn’t give any student at the university, or residents in the surrounding community, peace of mind,” PolicyMic writes.
State Representative Joe Almeida, a retired police officer, is pushing a bill that would allow campus police officers who complete a firearms training course at the state’s municipal police academy to carry weapons on duty, according to WPRI-12 News.
He told the station: “Because of what happened at URI, what happened in Connecticut, what’s happening in California, all across the country…something needs to be done. Do we wait for somebody to be hurt in Rhode Island or do we move now?”
Watch his entire interview with WPRI-TV for more information, below:
But the situation isn’t as unique as it may seem.
A 2004-2005 survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that only 67% of the campus law enforcement agencies they spoke with use armed patrol officers (a more recent comprehensive poll is not available).
The difference is that campus police in Rhode Island can’t be armed even if they want to be.
Rhode Island is currently the only state in the country that prohibits public university police from carrying guns, according to the Associated Press.
URI President David Dooley has long disagreed with the policy, but apparently there aren’t any plans to change it anytime soon.
“Simply more guns in the mix isn’t a solution to violence on university and college campuses,” Christine Hunsinger, the communications director for the state’s Gov. Lincoln Chaffee, told Campus Reform. “The governor is very opening to listening to both sides but it should be looked at as part of a whole solution…. We need to see what else can be done to make those places safe.”