MSU to clarify policy on handling weapons
By GAIL SCHONTZLER Chronicle Staff Writer
In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings, Montana State University is revising its firearms policy to clarify how weapons must be handled on campus and which weapons are banned.
“We decided we needed to be more specific,” Glenn Puffer, associate dean of students, said Monday.
“It really isn't a big change - just more clear, we hope,” said campus Police Chief Robert Putzke.
The old policy was shorter and vague, they said.
The new, proposed policy spells out a long list of weapons that are banned - from rifles, shotguns and handguns to swords, nunchucks and other martial arts weapons. The proposal also bans real-looking toy guns and pepper spray, except for small, personal protection dispensers.
The university is seeking public comment on the proposed policy until Friday.
The proposal also states clearly that even people who have permits to carry concealed weapons in public aren't allowed to bring their weapons on campus or into campus buildings. That's in line with state law, which suspends the privilege of concealed weapons in state buildings.
The policy also clarifies how weapons can be stored. Students living in campus dormitories can't keep weapons in their rooms, but must store them in the dorm's storage lockers.
Students or employees living off campus who are transporting a firearm in their vehicle must keep the weapon unloaded, cased and out of sight.
“The gun-rack with the gun loaded in the back of the pickup is not going to fly,” Puffer said.
However, if a student or employee is heading out on a hunting trip, having a rifle or gun is OK if it's unloaded, in a case and hidden from sight.
Putzke said that's intended to prevent firearms thefts as much as anything. While MSU hasn't had any problem in the past four years with people bringing concealed weapons on campus, it has had problems with weapons thefts, he said.
After the Virginia Tech shooting in April, when a student shot and killed 32 people in classroom and dorm buildings before killing himself, MSU President Geoff Gamble asked Allen Yarnell, vice president for student affairs, to look into how MSU would handle a similar situation.
Yarnell convened a small committee, which identified three areas of concern, including the firearms policy, Puffer said.
The group is still looking into a campus-wide notification system in the event of an emergency, and an emergency response plan for keeping people secure inside buildings.
“We're really good at getting people out of buildings for fires and earthquakes,” Puffer said. “We, and most institutions, have not looked at how to secure the whole campus against an external threat, a shooter.”