The last thing we need is more guns in schools

An open letter to the House Judiciary Committee,

It is with respect and concern that I am compelled to write against H 5299 today proposing to arm campus security at our state colleges (CCRI RIC).

My comments are limited to CCRI as I have been a full professor there for 29 years.

The central question would be why is the legislature getting involved?

Why is this august body trying to undermine the college’s autonomy?

Why do these sponsors of this highly divisive bill want to undermine the unity of the public college community here in our great state?

And why would legislators bother to mandate state colleges without talking to experts in education, campus safety, and mental health?

My passionate and adamant opposition to this highly inflammatory, pointlessly draconian knee-jerk legislative response stems from the glaring lack of evidence-based research on the effectiveness of campus police arming. There must be careful consideration and honest debate for this body to even consider reversing the college’s ability to set its own policies.

I’m sure most key players at CCRI would welcome a rigorous debate on armed policing, and dare I say many of our campus police officers may not want the responsibility of carrying a firearm?

All I hear from certain state leaders is nothing more than the moral certainty that the supply of firearms will keep us safe and secure.

By whom? Of what?

I recently heard a sponsor of the bill say on talk radio that this edition is not about politics, it’s about security. Curiously, this state official offered nothing to back up his claim other than red meat platitudes to NRA-loving armed onlookers.

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Has any supporting lawmaker performed any form of due diligence by providing empirical data?

All that is offered and pointed out is the infrequent high school and college shootings as justification for providing guns to CCRI campus police. It’s all speculative “what if” doomsday scenarios. However, armed security guards will not stop a determined person from doing harm. So now the justification that people’s lives are being postponed could be salvaged if there were armed guards.


Since this legislation aims to arm campus police, does the legislature also grant war weapons to guards?

Lightning bolt events aside, what about the daily interactions?

Several studies have shown that faculty and students are opposed to seeing armed guards on campus because it has a significant chill on free speech. If armed police were patrolling the hallways, it would dictate people to behave differently.

It’s the community college, not a military facility.

Has any bill sponsor taken the time to learn how this arms problem could do more harm than good?

Has anyone else at CCRI investigated how armed security forces could create a less secure environment for students, especially minorities?

Has any legislature consulted all college constituencies to get their thoughts on how college should be protected? I am not aware of any such contact.

In fact, the only security review I’m aware of took place around 2011, when CCRI commissioned the summit report. I suggest that the sponsors of H 5299 get a copy because no sentence in that report recommended active surveillance or firearms.

Across the country we are seeing a de-escalation of campus policing, and yet here in Rhode Island we have some lawmakers looking for a problem to find a potentially violent solution.

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Has any lawmaker studied CCRI’s Clery report? If someone did, they could read up on the lack of any crime on any campus to justify armed guards.

As scripted, H 5299 “orders” CCRI police to carry a firearm and tells law enforcement officers to provide liability protection under the Bill of Rights for law enforcement officers. If I am correct, this bill aims to create a newly created CCRI police force while eliminating liability!

So these police receive a full disclaimer and would not be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests even though they would act as representatives of the state government?

In my opinion, legislators are in the weakest position to evaluate and mandate anything at CCRI that affects health and safety requirements.

What’s next, the commitment to campus carry for students, staff and faculty?

Speaking on behalf of Guns For Everybody, the garrulous Archie Bunker once said of the spate of hijackings: “All you have to do is arm all your passengers, and then your airlines, they wouldn’t have to search the passengers’ ground anymore.” , they just hand out the guns at the beginning of the trip and pick them up at the end. Case closed.”


Steven F Forleo

(A concerned professor at CCRI)