A UW-La Crosse Student Senate meeting was held this Wednesday, Oct. 21 in the Cartwright Center to discuss the issue of whether to allow concealed carry on campus.
Currently, concealed carry is not permitted in academic or residence life buildings at UW-L, but the passing of this state legislature would allow a gun owner with a license to carry their firearm in any building on any of the UW campuses. UW schools up until this point have retained the right to individually decide whether concealed carry is acceptable on campus grounds.
Students were encouraged to attend the meeting Wednesday and were given the opportunity to speak on the topic for three minutes at the student body open forum.
“A lot of students turned out and spoke on both sides of the issue, which was very impressive,” said Kaylee Otterbacher, president of the Student Senate. “The student senators were very receptive to what people had to say.”
A survey was taken from the student body, but it was not secure, meaning that students could vote more than once. Due to this type of informal survey, the results are not binding.
“This doesn’t concern me personally and professionally because the margin of difference between the two answers was so large it wouldn’t make a huge difference. If the vote was closer, we could deem the results potentially invalid because of this,” said Otterbacher. “So the poll will be taken into account by the Student Senate and highly regarded, but it is not the binding stance of the student body until it is finally approved by the senate.”
The poll results favored those against concealed carry on campus, but another poll administered to the senate regarding rules and regulations of concealed carry laws suggested that many senators were uninformed on specifics. Thus, the senate is going to take an additional week to educate itself more on the issue before making a decision.
Currently, Governor Scott Walker has not submitted whether or not he supports or opposes concealed carry on campuses.
As for a local voice, Joe Gow, UW-L Chancellor, said, “We’re always looking to do all we can to make our students be and feel safe on campus. I’m not sure this is the right way to do that.”
This proposal is a highly divided topic, but safety is the ultimate goal in mind on both sides. For the campus police, this issue becomes especially important.
“It’s one of those things where you have to push personal opinion aside for the safety of the whole campus community,” said Detective Schuster. “For example, if carry concealed were allowed here on campus, I see an issue of responding to a situation of four or five people that are carry concealed, and then we cannot identify who the shooter is.”
Regardless of their stance, students are encouraged to make their voices heard.
Otterbacher urged, “I think it’s so important for the student body to take a stance on this issue, as it absolutely affects student life on campus. We need to put our voice out there and tell the world what we believe we should do, but I think we need to think critically and creatively in order to do it.”
The student senate will meet again next week on the issue.