Beware Gunmen: The University of Iowa is no longer a defense free zone…it has balls… tennis balls!

Let me start by saying that I applaud the University of Iowa for providing courses on what to do in the event of a gunman on campus, it is important for everyone to stay vigilant in this day and age, and be prepared for anything.  But as I read this article in this morning’s Daily Iowan, parts of it made me think that they had mistakenly ran an article straight from the Onion.

LeeAnn Yeckley entered a training room at the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety wielding a red rubber gun.

Instantly, the 22 other “potential victims” pelted the UI graduate student with yellow Styrofoam balls.

In this situation, called “the swarm,” the balls represented different objects that can be thrown at an attacker before several brave people in the room attempt to bring the person to the ground and get control of the weapon.

Iowa’s new shall issue law has resulted in many places feeling the need to declare themselves as gun free zones.  Iowa City and Johnson County have both passed ordinances banning weapons on city and county property respectively.  Not a big suprise from the city that has passed an ordinance declairing itself a nuclear weapon free zone.  North Liberty, a growing, relatively conservative town(by Johnson County standards)  just outside of Iowa City is now discussing a ban as well.  But the University’s ban on weapons is nothing new and has not changed as a result of the new law.

Certainly one option is to continue the ban on weapons and start issuing everyone a tennis ball, but maybe there is another way.  Maybe it is time to allow weapons on the campus of the University of Iowa.  It is not completely unheard of, in fact we may be seeing a slow trend towards allowing firearms on campus, instead of banning them.  Currently weapons are allowed on all campuses in Utah, based on a statewide law.  Texas will likely be the next state to join Utah.  A bill to allow firearms on all college campuses in Texas has just gained support of a majority of the Texas state house; a similar bill has already passed the state senate and Gov. Perry intends on signing the legislation.   Passage in Texas would be a huge step forward for advocates of allowing firearms on campus; Texas is home to 38 public universities and more than 500,000 students.  Eight other states including Arizona, Tennessee, Michigan, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Florida, Nebraska and Mississippi also have pending “campus carry” legislation.  And 12 others have had legislation proposed within the last few years including Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota,  Ohio, South Dakota, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington.

To my knowledge and limited research, no such bill has been proposed in Iowa.  But, there is at least one student group at Iowa State University advocating for the change.  Anthony Taylor, a junior in software engineering, started the Iowa State chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus last year.  Eric Cooper, 2010 Libertarian Gubernatorial candidate, serves as the student group’s faculty advisor.

The arguments for and against allowing firearms on campus are numerous and beyond the scope of this blog entry.  If you would like to find out more, two good starting points may be Students for Concealed Carry on Campus and The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus.  But I think it is time to start the conversation here in Iowa.

Who knows, maybe I’ll open up the paper tomorrow to find that the  University Police department is being replaced by the Hawkeye women’s tennis team…I hear they are pretty good shots.

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