The Iowa Senate has narrowly rejected the idea of arming campus security officers at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa. Senator Pat Ward, a Republican from West Des Moines, said she was stunned to learn the Iowa and Iowa State are the only two schools in the Big Ten and the Big 12 that do not allow campus security officers to carry side arms.
"These are campuses of 20,000 to 25,000 students, bigger than many towns in Iowa," Ward said. "We just learned from the tragedy in Virginia things happen fast and campus police need to have the ability to intervene just as quickly. Our campus police need loaded guns."
But Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, said Virginia Tech’s campus police carry guns, and it didn’t stop the shooting. "On November 1st in 1991, we had five people murdered on the University of Iowa campus. It happened in moments," Bolkcom said. "Had campus police had firearms in 1991, we still would have had five people murdered in Iowa City."
Senator Dennis Black, a Democrat from Newton, argued campus security officers might not have the same foresight as other members of the law enforcement community when it comes to using their weapons. "I just think it’s a sort of a knee-jerk response that will make us feel good, but the day will come…when a tragedy of the opposite will occur," Black said.
Senator Larry McKibben, a Republican from Marshalltown, was vehement in his argument that campus security must be armed to be able to deal with potential copy cats. "This is a time of extreme time of danger for people. We’re in a war on terror. God knows what happens out there. What a terrible tragedy," McKibben said. "You can say this is a knee-jerk reaction if you want to and I’m happy to be knee-jerking, colleagues, because I’m darn well going to do what it takes to protect the children."
The proposal to arm campus police failed the Senate — on a tie vote.