By Ben Kleppinger
Guns are not currently allowed anywhere on Eastern’s campus, except in the hands of Eastern police. But a bill proposed in the Kentucky House of Representatives could change that.
House Bill 114 proposes a change to Kentucky law requiring universities to allow weapons inside of vehicles on campus.
Currently, universities are allowed to set their own policies on gun control.
The bill is supported by 63 of the 100 representatives, but is currently being held up in committee by Judiciary Committee Chairperson Kathy Stein.
The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Robert Damrom, D-Nicholasville, said the bill creates a uniform policy across the board for allowing guns in cars.
“You can park at an elementary school and keep a gun in your car,” he said. “I don’t think universities should be treated different or given some kind of exemption.”
Damron said he thinks the bill would make the law consistent with other policies universities are not allowed to determine for themselves.
“We would not allow (the universities) to allow the sale of drugs on campus,” he said. “We would not allow them to say it’s OK to steal on campus. Why should they be exempt from this law?’
Damron said he thinks many students at Eastern would benefit from the bill.
“At Eastern…I would say a lot of your commuting students have guns in their car,” he said.
Damron said the bill is designed only to make it easier for people to keep guns in their cars for when they leave campus, because the bill would not allow guns to be taken out of cars.
But Damron acknowledged the bill would still make it easier to access guns on campus.
“Anytime a gun is in your car, you would technically have access to it,” he said.
Damron said he did not think the increased access to guns would be a problem.
“I think that there is a level of protection for people” when a gun is in their car, he said.
Eastern Police Chief Mark Welker said he couldn’t see an upside to the bill.
“It quickly increases the accessibility to firearms when there is no real need to access those firearms,” he said.
Welker said Eastern sees very few weapons violations as it is.
He said he doesn’t see a need to allow guns on campus if the current policy is working just fine.
Damron said police chiefs across the state have always been opposed to “every piece of gun legislation providing the right to keep and bear arms.”
He said universities should be allowed to determine their own policies to a certain extent, but “the right to bear arms is an unabridged right.”
Eastern President Doug Whitlock said he has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but does not carry a weapon on campus because he said he sees no need for it.
He said Eastern would comply if the bill passes.
But Whitlock said he would support legislation making it illegal for universities to allow guns on campus because it would be consistent with the university’s current policy.
Whitlock said legislation allowing guns on campus would not be helpful in a crisis situation.
“What would guns in trunks have accomplished at Virginia Tech?” he said.
Damron said the gun ban on Virginia Tech’s campus turned their students into “sheep.”
“They were there for the slaughter,” he said.
Increased access to guns during a crisis situation would actually make the situation worse, Welker said, because police would no longer be able to differentiate between a shooter and people who were trying to take out the shooter.
Damron said guns are allowed in cars everywhere else and does not understand why it is such a big deal to allow them on university campuses.
“I have a gun in my car,” he said in an interview with the Progress. “And we’ve been speaking for twenty minutes now, and guess what? It hasn’t jumped up and shot anybody. It hasn’t committed a crime,” he said. “It’s actually been a very good boy; it’s stayed right where I put it.