The Institute of Higher Learning Board of Trustees amended its policy regarding weapons on campus on Feb. 18 to be in compliance with current state law. Administrators at The W are in the process of updating the campus policy.
There are no changes to the policy regarding lawful carrying of a firearm on the W campus. Students and employees are not authorized to possess pistols, firearms or other weapons on institutional property or at off-campus events, even if they possess a state-enhanced carry permit.
The main changes to the IHL policy include an explanation of the term “authorized persons” and which areas are deemed non-public. Mississippi state law requires that a person must be trained in safety by a certified professional. They must also be fingerprinted to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm. The IHL policy restricts all visitors with an enhanced carry permit from carrying a concealed firearm on areas of campus that are considered private property.
Dr. Jim Borsig, president of The W, is working with IHL commissioners to understand the new changes and how they affect the W campus.
“The university is working on defining public and non-public areas on campus. The residence halls are non-public. Academic buildings and administration buildings are non-public areas. The open areas on campus probably fall in the definition of public areas,” said Borsig.
MUW Police Chief Danny Patton expects the changes to have little effect on The W, except where visitors are concerned. Enhanced concealed carry permit holders are not allowed to show or expose their weapon and are not allowed to carry in areas deemed non-public.
“IHL changed their policy to be in compliance with what they felt like the state law said. Along with that, the university is now reviewing the current policies and procedures that we have in place about weapons on campus, to make sure that we do comply with IHL and state law,” said Patton.
The IHL is the statewide governing body for all eight public universities in Mississippi. The clarification of this policy comes after more than 25 bills were introduced in the state legislature during this session addressing guns on college campuses.
Mississippi is one of nine states that allow guns on campus. In 2011, the state of Mississippi passed a law allowing licensed carriers to have concealed guns on college campuses. Before that law was passed, guns were not allowed on any campus in the state.
Other states that allow firearms include Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Utah, Wisconsin, Colorado and Oregon. A Texas law allowing firearms on campuses will take effect in August of this year. A total of 21 states now prohibit guns on campus.
However, firearms are not the only weapons that are not allowed on the W campus. In 1994, a state law was passed that stated a person possessing or carrying a firearm of any kind, or any dynamite cartridge, bomb, grenade, mine or powerful explosive on university property is guilty of a felony. According to the W employee handbook, it is also a felony to cause, encourage or aid a minor to possess or carry such a weapon. In the state of Mississippi, a minor is any individual under the age of 18.
If a faculty or staff member violates these rules, then he or she may be subject to disciplinary action and possible termination of employment. Students who violate these rules will automatically be suspended from his or her residence hall with the right to a hearing before the vice president for Student Affairs. A student violator also may face suspension or expulsion from school, depending upon the outcome of the criminal charges.