Proposed changes to concealed-carry law spark difference of opinion at UWRF

Posted November 4, 2015

A strong difference of opinion, both within Student Senate and among students in general, is being heard at UW-River Falls over a controversial bill being discussed by the Wisconsin State Legislature.

During its Oct. 20 meeting, Student Senate passed the Resolution Against Campus Carry Act, which opposes the Campus Carry Act. The Campus Carry Act is a bill proposed by Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) and Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) to stop any college or university in the UW-System and any technical college in Wisconsin from prohibiting a person from carrying a concealed firearm in university buildings.

This bill would also repeal the provision that allows the UW-System to prohibit people from “carrying, possessing, or using any dangerous weapon on university lands or in university buildings or facilities.”

After adopting the Resolution Against Campus Carry Act, the Student Senate sent out a press release to UWRF Chancellor Dean Van Galen, Wisconsin representatives in Congress and the UW-System Student Representatives. The senate also posted the press release on its Facebook and Twitter pages. The press release included a statement from Student Senate President Christopher Morgan that stated Senate’s opposition to the bill with the argument that it would not make university campuses a safer place.

Morgan said that after hearing the concerns of Van Galen, UWRF Chief of Police Karl Fleury, professors, UWRF resident advisors, and parents, it was Senate’s duty to take a stand against the passing of the Campus Carry Act.

“College is not known as a stable time in everyone’s lives. To throw firearms in the mix of that just seems to be incredibly irresponsible,” Morgan said.

At the Senate meeting, the Resolution Against Campus Carry Act was met with differences in opinion. Debate between members of the senate included whether the Campus Carry Act would have a negative effect when it comes to campus safety and students’ right to protect themselves. After much debate, the resolution was passed with 10 for, six opposed, and two abstained, according to minutes of the meeting.

Zachary Kroening, a newly elected member of Senate, said that he voted “no” on the resolution because he doesn’t believe that the Campus Carry Act would increase the amount of violence on university campuses.

“I support the measure that is going through the state legislature and I feel that many of the students on this campus feel the same way,” Kroening said. “I need to be a voice for them.”

Jesseca Kuster said that she voted “no” because she didn’t believe that Senate members had enough background on the bill and enough time to make an informed decision.

“It’s a very touchy subject and being at a very agricultural-based school, there’s a lot of people who would like to voice their opinion than just a couple people around a table,” Kuster said. “So I wish we would have had more time and I wish we would have talked about it with people other than 20 of us.”

Morgan said that he is not surprised by the difference of opinion in the senate, and that this is probably representative of students at UWRF, calling Wisconsin and UWRF a “mixed bag” when it comes to political ideologies and priorities.

“That’s a good thing about democracy: We allow ourselves to speak our thoughts and minds,” Morgan said. “But at the end of the day when it came to vote, the students decisively passed the resolution.”

Student Senate Advisor Paul Shepherd said that in his six years of being advisor, he hasn’t seen much debate of issues within Senate, mainly because in past years it has focused on issues only concerning Senate, such as bylaw changes and operating procedure.

“It’s not all that often in Student Senate that issues that are in the political realm are discussed, but I think there has been twice this year in which they have. It’s been interesting to see how different people think about it,” Shepherd said.

Morgan said that by re-focusing on issues that matter to students, Senate has taken on a more liberal approach this year, which reflects the priorities and views of the student body.

“These were issues at one point in Senate that were regarded too political to take on, and as an organization we should look inside and improve ourselves and remain harmonious within the organization and not really outreach and do politics because it’s dirty and it gets messy,” Morgan said. “Our approach is this year is we’re looking at exactly the issues that matter to students and disregarding where those issues fall on the political spectrum.”

Morgan said that although there is still differences of opinion concerning this issue, Senate is a united organization and must go forward with what has been voted on and passed.

“The important thing for us is to continue to express our concerns to our leaders in Madison and to tell them that this is not something that the students want,” he said, “this is not something that administration wants, this scares parents, this is not needed.”

The Faculty Senate at UW-River Falls was scheduled Nov. 4 to discuss its own resolution opposing the Campus Carry Act.