Traverse City Record-Eagle


October 25, 2009

Campuses center stage in weapons debate

TRAVERSE CITY -- Jessica Cichowski doesn't understand why someone would want or need to carry a firearm on a college campus.

Cichowski, 20, an engineering student at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, was concerned to hear about a proposed state law that would allow some of her fellow students to carry concealed weapons.

She worries that guns on campus could create safety problems and serve as a troubling distraction.

"It would just make me nervous knowing the guy sitting next to me in philosophy class has a gun in his pocket," she said.

State Rep. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, is sponsoring a bill that would prevent the state's public universities, colleges and community colleges from banning concealed weapons on campus.

A similar bill sponsored in part by State Sen. Michelle McManus, R-Lake Leelanau, seeks to roll back the state's own restrictions on where concealed weapons can be carried.

Schmidt said his bill is intended to clear up confusion and make the state legislature the sole authority on where weapons can be carried. But NMC officials and some students staunchly oppose the notion of guns in a learning environment.

"I just don't think it's a good idea to have people on college campuses walking around with concealed pistols," NMC president Tim Nelson said.

'Ultimate authority'

Lawmakers previously barred local governments from passing ordinances that restrict firearms, and Schmidt wants to apply the same law to public universities and colleges.

"The question is who ultimately determines where you can or cannot carry," Schmidt said. "My view is the state legislature should be the ultimate authority on that ... not local colleges."

State law currently bans the carrying of concealed weapons inside college classrooms, dormitories and sports arenas. Schmidt said his bill wouldn't change that, but he won't rule out dropping those restrictions, either.

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