Maryland Legislators propose law to ban guns on the campus


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Two local legislators are among the sponsors of a proposed state law that would ban guns, knives and other deadly weapons from college campuses.

The Weapon-Free Higher Education Zones bill would expand on existing state laws that ban such weapons from the grounds of K-12 public schools.

Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George's) is one of nearly 30 co-sponsors for the proposed state Senate bill, and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel and Prince George's) is one of four co-sponsors of a House version of that bill. Both legislators live in College Park.

University Police spokesman Paul Dillon said the proposed law would likely improve on-campus safety, but College Republicans president Chris Banerjee said the restrictions would prevent students from protecting themselves against armed criminals.

"People who are going to violate the law are not going to abide by a sign that says weapons are banned on campus," Banerjee said. "The good people will follow the law and be unarmed and defenseless."

Interest in campus safety has increased following high-profile shootings at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University, as well as a more recent incident at Virginia Tech in which one student cut off another's head.

Banerjee said in the event of another shooting, armed students could successfully resist an attacker and reduce the number of casualties.

The College Republicans plan to lobby against the legislation based on what Banerjee considers its is dubious constitutionality, he said.

"I think that the second amendment guarantees the right of law-abiding people to own firearms," Banerjee said. "The Constitution doesn't stop at the border of Route 1 and the University of Maryland."

But Dillon said he's concerned about guns being "used in non-self-defense situations, especially when most college campuses are places where students frequently get intoxicated."

"It's sort of scary. You read about weapons in domestic situations being used inappropriately with mature adults," Dillon said. "You've got 18-, 19-year-old kids in a learning environment. Guns would be potentially problematic."

Dillon said he felt the legislation would also prove useful in arresting suspicious people going around the campus with weapons that are dangerous but not illegal, but Banerjee said he did not agree with that aspect of the proposed law either.

While he acknowledged that there's a risk of "one unstable person" ending up on the campus with a weapon, he said the risks are worth it.

"There's a cost of living in a free society in that you're in danger from people who would use their freedom to harm others," he said. "But at the same time, I don't think that should be a reason for people to infringe on everyone's freedom."

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