Central Oregon Community College is the only institution in the state that prohibits all weapons on-campus-but that could soon change. The weapons task force, convened to review the Central Oregon Community College weapons policy, recommended the college affairs board change the policy to comply with Oregon state law on Jan. 7.
“Oregon’s one of the few states that will allow firearms on college campuses,” Kathy McCabe, head of the criminal justice program and member of the task force, said. “It’s still one of those where everyone’s sitting back and seeing who takes the lead on this.”
The task force made their recommendation to the College Affairs Board on Feb. 7. The recommendation stated:
“No person – including students, employees, vendors, college patrons, or other visitors – may bring, possess, conceal, brandish, use or be in possession of a firearm, destructive device or other dangerous weapons (as defined by ORS 161.015), or give the appearance of being in possession, on college-owned or controlled property or at activities under the jurisdiction or sponsorship of the college, except as provided by ORS 166.360, ORS 166.370 and federal law.”
If this recommendation is followed, it would bring COCC policy in line with Oregon law, according to Sharla Andresen, director of risk management at COCC and chair of the task force.
“We’re saying no person should be carrying a weapon unless it’s under ORS statutes,” Andresen said in the meeting.
The current weapons policy does not identify what a weapon is, however, so the task force recommended the college amend that as well. If the recommendation passes, firearms and any blade longer than three inches would not be allowed on campus.
If the college affairs committee approves the recommendation, it will go to the COCC president’s desk, according to Gordon Price, director of Student Life and another member of the task force. From there, the president will make a recommendation to the board of directors.
“It’ll take another three months at least,” Price said. “It’s not a quick process. It takes a while .”
Before the College Affairs Board approves it, the recommendation will go through a first and second reading, and amendments will be made, according to Price.
In gathering information for their recommendation, the task force used surveys and got “quite a bit of response,” according to Andresen. One hundred and eighty-nine COCC staff members and 758 students responded to the survey, according to the recommendation.
“A lot of people are very passionate about this,” Andresen said. “A lot of feedback was on education.”
Education is the other half of the task force’s responsibility: If the policy is to change, students and faculty need to know about it.
“We’re thinking stickers on doors,” Seth Elliott, director of Campus Public Safety and another member of the task force, said in the meeting, “and kiosks in key locations to communicate other things as well, other than the weapons policy.”
Andresen also noted that the recommendation does not ask that the Juniper Hall weapons policy be changed. The Juniper weapons policy prohibits “possession, use, threatened use, or transfer/sale of any weapon” in or around Juniper Residence Hall. The policy defines weapons as any object that could be used to inflict bodily harm or damage, including knives longer than three inches, combat and martial arts weapons, any projectile device such as pellet or paint ball guns, slingshots, bows and arrows, or any similar instrument that could harm someone. Exceptions include pocket knives less than three inches, “general tools,” and less than 0.5 ounces of pepper spray.