A discussion over improving security at Iowa’s Regents Universities this Fall will undoubtedly include the long debated topic of arming campus security officers with guns. The presidents at Iowa, Iowa State, and Northern Iowa are being asked to talk about the issue with faculty, students, and local residents.
Gary Steinke, Executive Director of the Iowa Board of Regents, says the Regents expect recommendations for improving campus safety from the presidents sometime this Fall. Iowa Department of Public Safety Director Gene Meyer says if he’s asked by the Regents for his opinion, he will suggest that campus security officers be allowed to carry guns.
Currently, those officers are allowed to keep a gun in their office, and can retrieve it if they encounter a dangerous situation. "It seems to me it’s when they encounter that dangerous situation is when they need to be armed," Meyer told reporters at a statehouse news conference Thursday.
Meyer says state troopers and other public safety officers are often called to campuses to assist with criminal situations, "and I know that the officers that work in the state department of public safety would feel far more confident if they were working side by side with officers who had all the tools available to them as we have. If they’re backing our officers up, I would like to see them armed." Most other states do allow their campus security officers to carry guns.
Chuck Green, Public Safety Director at the University of Iowa, says the campus security officers receive the same certified training as police and deserve to carry firearms. "It’s important to (the security officers)," Green says, "because they feel they can not adequately protect the public and themselves without all the tools of law enforcement."
UNI Public Safety Director Dave Zarifis and ISU Public Safety Director Jerry Stewart also say they would like their campus officers to be armed. Green says Iowa is one of the few states in the country that does not allow campus security to routinely carry guns. He says all of the schools in the Big 10, Big 12, and Missouri Valley Conferences allow security personnel to carry firearms.
Stewart says he hopes the Regents will change their policy, and let campus security in the state to carry guns. Stewart says the issue is not just about the officers being able to protect themselves, it’s about "having all the tools" to protect the public.
The public safety directors at the three schools have submitted reports on campus security to Governor Culver, who requested a review after the incident in April at Virginia Tech, where a gunman killed 32 people. The Iowa Board of Regents is expected to discuss the topic of campus security at it’s upcoming meeting August 1-2. The Regents plan to prepare a report for the legislature later this year.