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Janell Cole, Published January 31 2009

Bill would allow guns at public gatherings, on college campuses

BISMARCK – Crazed gunmen like the one who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in April 2007 take advantage of the fact that people possessing concealed weapons permits can’t carry guns on campus, says the sponsor of a bill expanding where concealed weapons would be allowed in North Dakota.

Those bent on slaughter know that, “and then they can go do their carnage,” said Rep. Duane DeKrey, R-Pettibone, prime sponsor of the bill that allows those with permits to have guns at public gatherings, sporting events, political rallies and other places, including college campuses.

University officials said they don’t want guns on campus. Students themselves are split on the issue, according to testimony Friday on House Bill 1348.

Thomas Nicolai of Cooperstown favors concealed weapons permit holders having guns on campus, noting no one could stop the Virginia Tech gunman, while another shooter at a church in Colorado was stopped after killing two because a woman with a concealed weapons permit killed him.

Greg Plautz of the University of North Dakota Students for Concealed Carry on Campus said it makes no sense for people licensed to carry weapons off campus to be barred from doing so on campus.

“We are exactly the same people on campus as we are off campus,” he said.

Ron Storhaug, a North Dakota State University student, said he is a hunter and gun owner, but opposes allowing weapons on campus and said his fellow students are “overwhelmingly against” it.

“These students don’t see the need for weapons on campus,” he said.

“Do students really need concealed weapons on campus to feel safe?” asked another, Frank Michael, testifying for the North Dakota Students Association.

Another Student Association representative, Ben Ziemer, warned of guns on campus in the midst of large amounts of alcohol and drugs, and potentially suicidal students. There’s also a risk of accidental shootings, he said.

University System Chancellor Bill Goetz said North Dakota and its college campuses are among the safest places in the country.

“Let’s keep it that way,” he said.

Ray Boyer, campus police director at NDSU, warned that concealed weapons don’t ensure safety. Some of the gunmen at the country’s mass shootings could probably have qualified for concealed weapons permits. He and others also warned of vigilantes shooting and missing, or being shot by responding police.

The panel hearing the bill, the House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee, took no action.

Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. She can be reached at forumcap@btinet.net