Head of Campus Safety weighs in on gun debate

 

THOMAS ELNESS

tkelness12@ole.augie.edu

 

Most people don’t wake up thinking about safety. Rick Tupper, Augustana’s director of Campus Safety, however, is not on that list.

In today’s world, guns and violence are on the rise and security must follow suit.

“I wish I could tell people, ‘Nothing bad will ever happen here,’ – but I can’t,” Tupper said. “It’s not that we anticipate problems, it’s more my job to be prepared for them.”

Preparing emergency response strategies is an important task that Tupper and his staff take very seriously.

“When we provide security at any event, there are layers of security,” Tupper said. “Even some of our events that we’ll do there will be armed officers.”

Although when Tupper decides to have a gun-bearing officer at an event, he doesn’t hand just anybody a gun.

“The only way we allow officers to be armed is if they are certified law-enforcement officers, [either] off-duty police officers or they’re certified through other law-enforcement agencies,” Tupper said.

There are six people Tupper usually calls to staff an event and most of them are from the Sheriff’s Department S.W.A.T. team.

Augustana’s Campus Safety officers usually do not carry firearms when providing everyday security. Many factors go into deciding how much security will be at each event including event size, crowd dynamics and venue.

“When we do the Boe Forum, a lot of times those speakers will come forward and, per their contract, they will require that we provide them an armed security escort,” Tupper said. “If we don’t prepare and then there’s a problem, it’s too late.”

Campus Safety has a very important duty protecting Augustana students, faculty and guests. Tupper and his team are trained professionals prepared for emergency response.

“I don’t think that everybody on a [college] campus needs to be carrying a pistol around with them,” Tupper said. “I think you need to have people that can be there to defend other people – to protect them – but you want to make sure that they’ve been trained.”

Some have argued that they want to have a weapon to be able to defend themselves, but Tupper, who has been in shootings, says this is not the best way to handle an dangerous event.

“The world is going so fast and with all the training you’ve had it’s still a stressful situation,” he said. “Now you put someone with no training and tell them, ‘Just because you have a concealed weapons permit and you threw that handgun in your backpack – you think that you’re going to save the world.’ Once confronted with that situation, unfortunately, you’re more likely to hit everybody else around the guy you’re aiming at than the guy you’re aiming at.”

Tupper thinks professionally trained officers are best prepared and equipped to handle such extreme adversity, but he also respects the United States Constitution and understands its purpose.

“I believe in people’s rights to have gun ownership.  I don’t believe that everybody should have one and I don’t think that everybody needs an assault rifle,” Tupper said. “When the constitution was written, it had a purpose, but it didn’t mean that everybody was going to carry an assault rifle.”

Tupper understands South Dakota, in particular, is a hunting state.

“People like to jump in a truck and go hunting; unfortunately, in December we had two different cars broken into on campus and guns stolen out of the cars. We don’t want that to happen,” Tupper said. “If a student does have a firearm, we have gun safes and we can lock them up.  They can check them in and out here.”

Several Augustana students feel safe with campus safety’s protection of campus.

“I am beyond happy that Campus Safety is here 24/7 looking out for Augustana students,” freshman Bryan Halverson said.

Halverson is not alone.  Some students have worked with campus safety, including sophomore peer advisor Haley Hoium.

“With the peer advisor job this year, I’ve gotten to work with Campus Safety directly.  They care about the students and I have faith in their training and ability to protect our campus,” Hoium said.

To learn more about the Department of Campus Safety visit their page on Augustana’s website.