Kenyon has clarified its stance as a gun-free campus in response to the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 199, which opened the door for campuses across the state to allow the carrying of concealed weapons. Governor John Kasich signed the bill into law on Dec. 19, 2016.
The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees approved a policy clarifying Kenyon’s “longstanding ban of weapons on campus,” according to a March 21 email. Concealed handgun licensees and active duty service members will be required to secure handguns in a locked motor vehicle while they are on campus.
The Ohio law removed prohibitions on concealed carry of handguns in “institutions of higher education, day-care facilities, aircraft, certain government facilities, public areas of airport terminals, and school safety zones,” according to the Ohio State Legislature website. The College’s gun-free stance will remain largely unchanged, since the College, as a private institution, has the power to prohibit concealed carry in College-owned buildings, including business operations like the Kenyon Inn.
President Sean Decatur expressed commitment to keeping Kenyon a gun-free campus.
“I don’t see any evidence that students or other community members carrying concealed guns will do anything to make the campus a safer or a better place,” Decatur said. “There’s actually more evidence out there that possession of weapons on campus can lead to tragedy pretty quickly.”
Although generally satisfied with the Kenyon administration’s response, members of Kenyon Students for Gun Sense (KSGS) expressed concern.
“[The policy] essentially opens the door for the creation of policies that allow guns on campus,” Emma Welsh-Huggins ’17, president of KSGS, said. “It doesn’t specifically in the bill say, ‘Okay, now allow all guns on campus,’ but it does allow for the creation of a policy by the Board of Trustees … that would allow that.”
Senate Bill 199 also allows concealed carry without a license for active duty military members if they provide military identification and proof of weapons training, and authorizes “certain children’s crisis care centers to maintain firearms,” according to the bill’s description on the Ohio state legislature website.
To increase conversations about gun violence on campus, KSGS will co-sponsor a screening of director Ava Duvernay’s documentary on the criminal justice system, “13th,” on March 31, in conjunction with the Black Student Union and the Discrimination Advisors. KSGS will also screen “Newtown,” about the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting, on April 14, and “Under the Gun,” a documentary that examines the political ramifications of the Sandy Hook shooting, on April 21.
The documentary screenings are intended to make students more aware of the issues caused by gun violence.
“We’re not worried about our school,” Welsh-Huggins said. “It’s the fact that we don’t exist in a vacuum.”
“Guns and campuses don’t mix,” she added.