Rash of handgun reports in dorms worries some

Joe Lord

Campus police have received three reports of handguns on campus this semester, causing concern for many students who call Western home.

Capt. Eugene Hoofer said police now have a suspect in the most recent incident involving a handgun – an armed robbery Oct. 16 in Pearce-Ford Tower.

He would not say if the suspect was a student.

Hoofer said campus police do not know if the Oct. 16 incident is related to a Sept. 7 robbery report in Poland Hall and an anonymous report Sept. 10 of a man with a gun on the sixth floor of Barnes-Campbell Hall.

Hoofer said campus police did not receive any reports of handguns on campus last semester.

Brian Kuster, director of Housing and Residence Life, said Western’s dorms are safe despite the rash of gun reports.

Hoofer said campus police are also performing regular walk-throughs in select dorms. He said he does not know of any other course of action police can take to protect students.

However, Nick North, a sophomore from Zionsville, Ind., said Western can and should take greater precautions to protect students. North reported being robbed at gunpoint in PFT two weeks ago.

“Honestly, I think it’s one of the most unsafe places to live,” he said.

Bowling Green junior Rachael Carwell said she’s taking extra precautions as a result of the recent reports of guns in dorms at Western. Carwell lives in PFT, where the most recent report occurred.

She said she is making sure she locks her door, but she doesn’t think the university can do much else to protect students.

Hoofer said university policy prohibits the possession of weapons on campus, but there are no state or federal laws that govern the issue.

The student handbook states, “A student found in possession of firearms or any other weapon or the brandishing of any object in a menacing or threatening manner will be referred to the office of Housing and Residence Life or the coordinator of Judicial Affairs for the sole purpose of determining either suspension or expulsion.”

Any student caught in possession of a weapon in a dorm room would be suspended from the dorms, said Howard Bailey, dean of Student Life. The case against the student would go to Student Life and then be brought before the university disciplinary committee which would choose to either expel or suspend the individual.

Hoofer said campus police cannot search dorm rooms for guns without probable cause or a search warrant. Other methods to increase safety, including installing metal protectors, could be ineffective or cause inconveniences for dorm residents.

Hoofer said dorm personnel have more leeway to search for weapons in dorm rooms than police.

“They can do safety inspections,” Hoofer said. “Police can’t do that.”

Hoofer said campus police would accompany housing personnel to search a room if there was a gun report, but officers would only provide security and ensure the safety of the weapon before handing it over to housing.

A confiscated weapon would then be turned over to Bailey, Kuster said.

Hoofer also said any handgun found during the search of a dorm room would not be confiscated by police unless it is found to be evidence from a criminal investigation – like the two robbery reports this semester.

Bailey said the recent reports of guns on campus does not make Western any different from other colleges across the country.

“I think we’ve had a report of three (handguns in dorms) this year, and it’s not unusual in the last two or three years to have one or two,” he said.

Reach Joseph Lord at [email protected]