Last week, President Barack Obama delivered the first State of the Union Address of his second term, and toward the end of his speech, he discussed something that’s been a talking point for his administration since 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012.
The president urged Congress to take up measures to control assault weapons across the country. At Temple, this political topic sparks debate among students and became prevalent following a 2011 incident involving then-student Robert Eells who returned fire during an attempted burglary with his own weapon.
Some students, like senior history major Mark Edwards, own weapons for the purpose of protection.
“I have an AR-15 rifle and a Glock-26 pistol,” he said.
Edwards also said he possesses a concealed carry license and has been carrying for almost a year. He has never had to use his gun for a safety situation.
“Luckily I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve had to do that, I’ve never had to pull it out of its holster a single time,” he said.
Edwards said that currently, he is not only unhappy with the president’s proposed gun policies, but he is dissatisfied with the university’s policy.
Deputy Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said it’s against school policy to carry weapons on campus.
“By stepping on campus, I automatically lose one of my rights to defend myself in the best way that I can,” Edwards said.
Leone argues that students’ “best defense” is one that can potentially cause him harm.
“More often than not with weapons, more bad can come of it than good. It can be used against you, suicide rates are higher when there’s a weapon in the house or if you mix alcohol and weapons. A lot of bad can happen,” Leone said.
Leone said he believes that this area of defense should remain within the duties of the authorities.
“I’m not a proponent of carrying weapons for a number of reasons. One has to do with training, two has to do with I don’t know who you are carrying the weapon and I feel that it’s best left in the hands of the professionals, so to speak,” Leone said.
While Leone said no real issues have occurred with student-on-student violence in the past, he acknowledges that the debate is still prevalent.
“We’ve gotten calls over the last few years from students asking why they can’t, requesting to carry it. A number of students…don’t think it’s fair, those that carry guns,” he said.
Leone said he believes that the best weapon students can have against potential dangers is their brain and that there is no need for students to be carrying a gun.
“When you look at the situation, I guess everyone has a right to defend themselves in their house but, again, more bad than good comes of it. A lot of the situations you can prevent, depending on what you’re doing,” he said.
The right to defend oneself through the Second Amendment is a belief that Erik Jacobs, chairman of the Temple University College Republicans, holds true.
Jacobs advocates that students arm themselves.
“I would definitely encourage students who live off-campus to take advantage of that and get their permits and get weapons for self-protection,” he said.
Jacobs said all students should get educated on their Second Amendment rights and exercise them.
“If you don’t use them, you could lose them,” he said.
Jacobs also looks at the gun control issue on a national level.
“I oppose gun control measures,” Jacobs said. “We have a Second Amendment right that says you can bear arms. That right is sacrosanct, just as the right to free speech and trying to curtail one amendment is no different than trying to curtail another.”
Jacobs does agree that more mental health checks and background checks could be employed when applying for firearms.
Fellow civic-minded student Dylan Morpurgo, president of Temple College Democrats, disagrees with Jacob’s stance.
“I whole heartedly support every piece of legislation the government proposes and supports in regards to gun control,” Morpurgo, a junior political science major, said.
Morpurgo said he does acknowledge that in the U.S., the public is granted the right to bear arms, however it needs to be done in a safe and sane way. In regards to the student body, Morpurgo said he believes in a stricter policy.
“I don’t think that anyone really needs to be carrying a handgun, whether that’s for good or bad reasons, protection or not,” Morpurgo said.
Similar to the beliefs of Leone, Morpurgo requests that that duty be left to the professionals.
“The police department is trained to deal with that situation in any way possible, without a gun being fired until the last possible absolute moment,” Morpurgo said. “Students do not have the training, they don’t have physical training, they don’t have the technical training, they don’t have the psychological training.”
Temple Student Government Student Body President David Lopez stated that this situation is complicated as it relates to the student body.
“I think when it comes down to it, it’s a very difficult gray area because the Constitution calls for one thing and what university policy dictates is something completely different,” Lopez said.
Lopez does, however, ultimately agree with Leone and Morpurgo in the notion that CSS is qualified to use the weapons and that doing so should be left to its officers, he said.
“We do have really great campus safety on our campus and for that reason I don’t think that students should feel the need to be armed for their own safety or protection,” Lopez said.
Leone said that if students still feel unsafe, alternative means of protection can be used. The Owl Loop shuttle, police escorts or rape aggression and defense courses that will soon be offered to men, are available at the university, he said.
Cindy Stansbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.