EDITORIAL: Arming ISU Police well-reasoned idea, reflects concerns

Campus police ought to be armed with firearms. Kudos to the Government of the Student Body for endorsing this in a 23-5-0 vote last week.

Campus police at Iowa State – in addition to the University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa – used to be armed. In the 1960s, however, Vietnam-era unrest and changing philosophies took guns away from the officers. There was no specific event that triggered that decision.

It’s an outdated policy. There are several reasons to update it.

Iowa State has a greater campus population than those of many communities in Iowa. Those all have armed officers at their disposal. Also, the regent universities peer institutions all have armed campus forces – Iowa’s universities are unique in this capacity, and it puts our officers at risk.

Not only do our officers protect us, but they need to be able to protect themselves. When dealing with armed criminals, unarmed officers become a liability.

If your loved one was in a such a situation, wouldn’t you want him or her to be on equal ground?

Some opponents of the measure confuse exactly who is being armed. The recommendation concerns only the 31 state-certified officers of the ISU police force. It does not involve arming volunteers or student officers, who won’t have the same training and certification as the professionals of the force.

Arming ISU Police is no different than arming the Ames Police Department, and no one seems to have qualms with that.

This measure has endorsements by the student body in the poll GSB conducted, GSB itself, the Graduate and Professional Student Senate, ISU Police Cmdr. Gene Deisinger and Department of Public Safety Director Jerry Stewart. It is not an unpopular measure.

Opponents say that the arming of officers should be judged by probability, not possibility.

This is naive. Probability states that it shouldn’t happen – in which case the guns won’t come out. There is a possibility that it could happen, and we should be prepared.

Others question the timing of the incident, criticizing it as a knee-jerk response to Virginia Tech, where armed police did not make a difference.

We disagree. This discussion began before last spring – the spotlight merely shone brighter on it. This shouldn’t be looked at as a response to the horror of Virginia Tech, but instead equipping our police as best we can.

Last spring, the Legislature required the Iowa Board of Regents make a recommendation in September on whether campus police forces in Iowa should be armed.

They should be, and we implore the regents to say just that.