Come spring semester, Police and Safety officers will begin to carry firearms. This is not something students or parents need to worry about; it actually might be a good thing.
First, it must be understood that the training the officers will undergo in order to safely carry the guns is the same as other uniformed officers, such as the Erie City Police. The safety precautions associated with the firearms will be of utmost importance and will be stressed for the day-to-day interactions with students. All officers will be using a holster of at least Level II retention strength, which is a precaution which prevents people other than the officer from taking the gun.
The second reason that no one should be worried about this change is because the officers who are receiving the firearms are already dealing with their everyday exchanges without violence. Some might use this as a reason campus police do not need guns, but it shows that the addition is not going to be an agitator to current operating procedures.
Officers are acclimated to dealing with students of varying temperaments and levels of inebriation, and this addition will not change their methods of doing so.
Thirdly, firearms being carried by the officers is the epitome of a contingency plan, not of a regular use need. Last year’s on-campus suicide highlighted to the administration that, aside from the struggles with identifying threats, campus police is obviously incapable of dispatching threats when they arise. The need was then shown and the administration acted to fill the gap in security.
Dependence on outside police departments can be a dangerous situation if a situation escalates to shooting, when expedited armed response is necessary in order to protect student lives. The entire rationale surrounds the avoidance of another Columbine or Virginia Tech crisis, and the proactive stance the school is taking is a welcome one in that regard. I would prefer students be uncomfortable with guns being on campus for a decade and nothing compromise their safety rather than have one situation where campus police cannot respond to a crisis.
Spring semester will bring about a change which is a necessary evil to combat insecurity at Mercyhurst, and will hopefully only serve to become an issue again should there come a situation where the guns are needed.