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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Students discuss gun policy at forum

Published: November 30, 2007
Section: Front Page, News

Tuesday evening a forum was held to discuss gun policy on campus. Class of 2009 senator Julia Sferlazzo moderated the event, which featured Matt Rogers ’08 and Fanny Familia ’09, who are student representatives to the Firearms Policy Advisory Committee. About 20 students, including Student Union representatives, attended.

The forum, according to Sferlazzo, was intended to “get solid student views so [Familia and Rogers] can say [to the committee] ‘this is what we want.’” Issues of concern for students included transparency, training, intimidation, and details of how many officers will be armed at a given time as well as where guns are kept.

“My main concern is the idea of transparency,” said Etta King ’10. King suggested creating a “widely publicized” source of information regarding guns “for students with questions.” She added, “one of the greatest issues surrounding guns [is that] people who have the potential to care are too lazy…to seek out information.”

Familia explained that information regarding arming Public Safety officers may be included on the Union’s Citizenship Campaign website.

“Arming police doesn’t necessarily mean every officer would have a gun in their holster at all times,” said Sferlazzo. She then suggested the possibility of Public Safety officers storing their weapons in a locker.

Ben Serby ’10, a member of Students Opposing the Decision to Arm, liked the idea. “I don’t see a need for them to carry weapons on a day to day basis,” he said.

“I would feel safer if the police were armed 100 percent on the time,” said Sarah Bernes ’10 in response to the prospect of guns kept in lockers.

Many students expressed concerns regarding intimidation. King commented, “we have to understand that guns are intimidating and that’s the first step students will have to get used to.”

Sahar Massachi ’11 agreed that the presence of guns would affect the campus atmosphere. Guns on campus “will make Brandeis more on edge…[guns] will stifle the atmosphere we want to foster.” He added, “I want to make sure if a police officer gets upset, he can’t just pull out a gun.”

Rosenthal Senator Max Matza ’10 felt the police would intimidate students with or without guns. “When I see a cop I’m already intimidated…they still have the power to arrest me.”

Bernes commented on the “concerns about power dynamics.” “How can we improve relations between students and Public Safety?” she asked.

In addition to intimidation, students expressed concern over misuse of guns. Senator-at-large Jessica Blumberg ’09 suggested that there be “distinct steps that all officers must take before taking out guns.”

Jamie Ansorge ’09, Chief Justice of the Union Judiciary, agreed. He suggested that perhaps police officers should give a warning such as “I am touching my gun.”

“If a gun is pulled from a holster…everyone should know,” said newly elected Union Secretary Nelson Rutrick ’09, “it should be extremely well known so [campus police] are extremely afraid of pulling a gun unless they need to.”

“All students need to know that pulling a gun is not ok unless someone needs to be killed…deadly use of force needs to be justified,” said Matza.

“What constitutes life endangerment is an important issue,” said Serby, “what they perceive as a threat is completely subjective…that’s why it scares me.”

SODA member Phil LaCombe ’10 offered the idea of pistol cameras to prevent misuse of guns. The cameras cost upwards of $700 and are currently being tested in parts of New York he said.

Sferlazzo brought up the issue of diversity training, suggesting “more extensive diversity training,” that would include gender identification. Matza proposed the idea of Brandeis specific training that would include issues of diversity.

Regardless of the decisions made by the Firearms Policy Advisory Committee, students felt strongly that they should be apprised of every detail. “We want to know everything down to the last detail,” said Sferlazzo.

After the event, Familia commented, “I’ve had discussions with students concerning cops [but] it doesn’t go beyond the students involved. There is a gap between students and the administration.” Student representation of the Firearms Policy Advisory Committee will mitigate that disconnect she said.

Of the forum, Familia said, “I want to hear from as many voices as possible…I was surprised to actually see a pro-gun person [tonight.]”

“I’m I glad I decided to go because being pro-gun at Brandeis is a minority and I think it’s a social obligation for people to voice their opinions,” Bernes remarked. She added, “the conversation was a good collaboration of thoughts.”

Students Opposing the Decision to Arm member Justin Backal-Balik ’10 commented, “it went well [but] I wish more people were there…I would like [future forums] to be better publicized.”