Last November, the Ohio House of Representatives passed House Bill 48, colloquially referred to as the “guns everywhere” bill, a moniker similar to one critics gave to a 2014 bill passed in Georgia.
In response to th Ohio legislation, the Kenyon Democrats started an online petition in February, urging President Decatur to declare Kenyon’s campus a gun-free zone if the bill becomes law.
If Governor John Kasich signs the law, Kenyon, as a private institution, may choose whether or not to change its own concealed-carry policies. Decatur said the College’s policies will not change under any circumstances, and he has signed a petition, along with other college and university presidents across the state, urging state legislators in the senate not to pass the bill.
Under Ohio state law, it is a felony to carry concealed weapons in certain designated areas, termed victim zones. Victim zones in Ohio include airports, police stations and schools — but if HB 48 is signed into law, these designated locations would no longer be gun-free by mandate.
Jessie Gorovitz ’19 and Alex Piper ’16 co-wrote the Kenyon Democrats’ petition. As of Wednesday evening, 318 members of Kenyon’s community had signed it.
“Anyone with a permit to carry concealed weapons that is recognized by the State of Ohio—students, faculty, staff, and visitors—would be allowed to carry loaded, concealed handguns anywhere on Ohio college campuses,” the petition reads, “including classrooms, student centers and sports arenas, and to keep firearms in student dormitories and fraternity houses, if the institution so chooses.”
Kenyon Democrats President Sam Whipple ’16 said that if the bill were to pass in the Senate and await Kasich’s signature, the governor might not consider it until summer, in which case Kenyon students would not be on campus to voice objections to its passing.
“We want to make sure that Kenyon takes the opportunity now to say we are not going to support the bill if it passes,” Whipple said on why the student group was petitioning Decatur at this time.
“I think, in general, concealed-carry on academic campuses, you know whether we’re talking elementary schools or college campuses, it’s just not a good idea, not good policy,” Decatur said.
At the moment, firearms of any kind, guns included, are prohibited on the entirety of the campus, according to the Student Handbook, although students may store a bow and arrow under the care of Campus Safety if they wish. Director of Campus Safety Bob Hooper wrote in an email to the Collegian that his office was not currently storing any firearms, but is providing storage space for two archery bows.
“You don’t want to be on the other end of the phone when somebody tells you there’s been a shooting at your school,” Gorovitz said.
“You don’t know what it’s like until it happens to you, or happens to your community, but that doesn’t mean everybody shouldn’t take it seriously.”