Staff, students share thoughts on campus gun policy

On Sunday, Jan. 31, an anonymous source called Campus Safety and said there was a gun on Augustana’s campus. They didn’t give any further details.

All weapons are prohibited on campus and, aside from this anonymous report, Augustana has had few gun related incidents over the years.

“I’ve never had an experience at Augie specifically that has caused me to feel uncomfortable,” said senior Taylor Beagle.

Rick Tupper, associate vice president for safety and logistics, said there are “maybe one or two” reports of illegal weapons per year. There have been no reports of illegal weapons on campus listed on Augustana’s Annual Security & Safety report between 2016 and 2018.

“Augie is transparent if something does happen,” said senior Augustana Student Association President Cole Tessendorf, “which I really respect because not every campus is going to be safe.”

Augustana reports incidents that occur on campus on the Daily Campus Safety Log. Each student has access to view these incidents.

Tupper said there were a few incidents last year where security officers found discarded firearms thrown near dumpsters on campus. However, none of these occurrences were found to be student-related issues.

As of July 1, 2019, permitless carry was made legal in the state of South Dakota. According to the U.S. Concealed Carry Association (USCCA), residents that are above 18 can purchase a firearm without concealed carry permits, individual background checks or firearm safety training. This law states that residents are allowed to carry firearms on their person and in plain sight within a vehicle.

However, despite this law, Augustana has a no tolerance policy for weapons carried on campus — both in vehicles and in campus housing.

“Guns kind of scare me,” said junior Cassidy Waggoner. “I don’t think you should need to have a gun on campus.”

According to the safety report, the weapons that are prohibited on Augustana’s property are, but are not limited to, “firearms, air guns, bows, knives with blades 6-inches in length, etc.”

This also includes the “manufacture, sale, purchase, transportation, concealment or use of firearms, cutting instruments, explosives, incendiary devices or other deadly weapons.”

“I feel more comfortable knowing my neighbors [might] have alcohol and marijuana than I am comfortable knowing that my neighbors have a firearm,” said Beagle.

Although, this is not the case for everyone. Freshman Braydon Ashfeld said he believes guns should be allowed on campus.

“Guns should be allowed on campus because of the statute already set in place in South Dakota,” Ashfeld said.

Ashfeld said he believes there are benefits to allowing students to conceal a handgun within their vehicles.

“Anything could happen; there is evil in this world,” said Ashfeld.

Waggoner knows of some students on campus that carry cat-shaped self-defense keychains. These keychains are similar to brass knuckles, which are considered handheld weapons.

Recently, customizable self-defense keychains have been trending on Instagram and TikTok. Most keychains come with pepper spray, a self-defense tool/window breaker, a safety alarm/led light and a colored pom pom.

“I have definitely considered buying one [self-defense keychain], but there hasn’t been a specific event where I have thought ‘Oh I should invest in one of these,’” said Waggoner. “It would be cool to have though, and they are kind of cute.”

The university has measures set in place if issues with weapons are reoccurring on campus.

If university officials are worried about direct harm to someone, the situation becomes a campus judicial issue with further action from the Dean of Students office.

Tupper said from there, certain individual(s) may be identified as trespassers, removed from campus and asked not to return to the university.

If students plan to hunt wildlife while attending Augustana, they are encouraged to check the weapon in with campus safety and keep it stored in a gun locker on campus. Students have 24-hour-access to these lockers.

“[Campus Safety does] a really good job of patrolling the area,” said Tessendorf. “We have a pretty safe campus.”