Proposed MSA legislation calls for curators to allow guns on campus

Senator Chris Vas: “If I stand across the street [from the university], I have unalienable rights to own a firearm, but if I step on this side of a street, all of a sudden my unalienable rights are gone.”

A bill that would ask the UM System Board of Curators to change the system’s Collected Rules and Regulations to allow guns on campus will go up for a vote in the Missouri Students Association Campus and Community Relations committee Tuesday.

Currently, the Collected Rules and Regulations state: “The possession of and discharge of firearms, weapons and explosives on University property including University farms is prohibited except in regularly approved programs or by University agents or employees in the line of duty.”

Missouri state law does not prohibit concealed carry on college campuses. But according to Section 571.107.1 of the Missouri Revised Statutes, weapons permits do not authorize concealed carry on college campuses without the consent of the school’s governing body. The proposed MSA resolution would not call for a change of current law, only university policy.

The resolution entered CCRC on April 18 but was tabled after an hour-long discussion.

“I don’t own a gun, have never owned a gun, and don’t plan to own a gun, but I don’t think that this resolution is about me, it’s about people who want to feel safe on campus and want to use their unalienable right to protect themselves with a firearm,” MSA Senator Chris Vas, who authored the legislation, said during his presentation.

Vas, a former Maneater columnist, refused to comment on the resolution. He said during the meeting that the university’s policies should “come into compliance with the current statute in the state,” referencing the Missouri Constitution, which states that the right to bear arms is unalienable.

“If I stand across the street [from the university], I have unalienable rights to own a firearm, but if I step on this side of a street, all of a sudden my unalienable rights are gone,” he said during the meeting.

According to the Associated Students of the University of Missouri’s 2015-16 survey, 53 percent of students oppose campus carry. ASUM lobbies at the state capitol on behalf of students. Their current platform opposes legislation that would mandate universities to allow guns on campus. Last year, at least four separate bills attempted to create such legislation, according to the St Louis Post-Dispatch.

Dozens of students attended the CCRC meeting to ask questions about the legislation. One student said she would feel safer on campus if she had a gun.

“Having a firearm would just make me feel a lot safer, as I walk to my apartment from campus every day at night, and it’s just a little scary for me, personally,” she said.

Other students were more critical of the resolution and said they would feel less safe on campus if students carried firearms. Jonathan Becker gave a speech against the legislation, contradicting the evidence Vas provided, which included several cases of people effectively defending themselves in dangerous situations or preventing crimes from occurring, as well as studies that supported the use of guns as a deterrent to committing crimes.

“Chris mentioned two peer-reviewed studies about this issue; I’m holding in my hand about 200 peer-reviewed studies that would disagree with that conclusion on a number of fronts, and there actually is a public health consensus about this issue, whether you know it or not,” Becker said.

Gage Grispino, a co-sponsor of the legislation, gave a speech in support of the resolution in response. He said that the data Becker provided was “all valid” although he didn’t think the relationship between gun ownership and gun violence was causal. He said the more important issue at hand was whether or not to bring the resolution to the full Senate floor for discussion.

“We live in the freest society in the world, in my mind, and with the free society comes a lot of risks, and I don’t think that you can sacrifice those freedoms for those risks,” Grispino said.

CCRC can pass the resolution to Senate or fail it. If the resolution fails in committee, it could still go to the floor under a 2016 change to the MSA bylaws, which requires the Senate to hear any legislation that receives the signatures of 50 or more students.

Senate Speaker Hunter Windholz said that Vas had not yet submitted signatures but could do so if the committee failed his legislation.

Vas complained during the CCRC meeting that it had taken his legislation longer than normal to be assigned committee after he submitted it to Windholz, which he said was against Senate rules. Windholz said Vas submitted the legislation April 10, eight days before it was heard in committee.

“Speaker Windholz did not do his duty in referring this to committee until this week,” Vas said during the meeting. “I have not gone to the court about this, but it is clearly against Senate rules.”

Senate rules do not currently give a time limit for the speaker to assign legislation to a committee. Windholz said such a time limit would go into effect next year, but the rules for this session only require that submitted legislation be assigned to committee before the end of the year.

Windholz said he had delayed the legislation because Vas had not reached out to the Board of Curators about it, which he said made the resolution less likely to be successful. Vas said during the meeting that he had reached out to police departments across Missouri — but not MUPD — as well as an MU professor who is currently suing the university to allow campus carry.

“Until the curators are brought in on this conversation, there’s really no way to speculate whether the resolution will have the desired effect,” Windholz said.

He said the curators look to MSA to provide the opinion of MU students and that the association has “a lot more weight” than people perceive.

When asked how he would work with administrators who didn’t agree with his resolution, Vas said, “I was unaware that this body represented the administration,” and expressed distrust in the university’s handling of past issues.

CCRC meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. in room 1209 of the Student Center. If passed, the bill will go up for a final vote during full Senate, which meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Leadership Auditorium.

Edited by Anna Sirianni | asirianni@themaneater.com

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