Delta State University and institutions across Mississippi are expressing concern today after House Bill 1083, also called the “weapons bill,” was passed by the Mississippi House of Representatives by a wide margin of 80-29.
The bill proposes legally permitting concealed carry weapons onto all areas of college campuses, including classrooms, offices, residence halls and athletic venues.
In a statement released by Dr. Glenn F. Boyce, IHL commissioner, he stressed that the new legislation prohibits the IHL from establishing any policies, thus giving it no authority to regulate weapons in sensitive areas.
“The safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors on our university campuses is a top priority for the Board of Trustees and University leaders,” Boyce stated. “HB 1083 compromises our ability to protect and ensure the safety of those on our campuses because it nullifies and prohibits any policies and/or authority to designate sensitive areas of campus where weapons should not be allowed.”
Delta State University President William N. LaForge said the bill poses a significant threat to Mississippi campuses.
“A university is no place for guns — period,” said LaForge. “And that goes doubly for residence halls, classroom buildings and athletic facilities. To enable the legal carrying of guns on a university campus in today’s society is misdirected and unwise.”
Ronnie Mayers, director of athletics at Delta State, echoed LaForge’s concerns.
“Athletic events are often highly emotional events and there is always potential for something to go horribly wrong,” said Mayers. “Guns should not be allowed at any athletic events.”
Jeffrey Johns, chief of police at Delta State, also warned of the hazards associated with the bill.
“I echo the concerns of President LaForge and Commissioner Boyce about expanding concealed carry on educational property,” said Johns. “While a supporter of Second Amendment rights, I do not think that more concealed carry in sporting events or educational buildings, which is currently prohibited, provides any value or enhancement to safety. Spectator sport security has become a highly-specialized process, and fans can become emotionally charged at the events.”
Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum was among institutional leaders to also voice his concern with the bill on Wednesday by issuing a press release.
“We have a fundamental responsibility to protect our students, faculty, staff and visitors to our campus,” Keenum said in the statement. “In recent years (the College Board) adopted policies to allow concealed weapons into ‘public’ venues on campus, but has not allowed firearms into areas determined ‘non-public’ such as classrooms and residence halls. We have great concerns about the prospect of a broad expansion of the existing IHL policies regarding firearms being brought onto campus because of the increased risk it would pose for every member of our campus community.”
HB 1083 was authored by Rep. Andy Gipson, R-Braxton.
Follow all updates at www.deltastate.edu