I am not currently, nor have ever been a student at Memorial University. My university education days are long behind me now, having completed my degree in the late 90s. I have never served in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Regarding Sébastien Després (“An open letter to Memorial University’s Senate”) examples of CAF classroom settings for courses on weapons maintenance, of course they would not be loaded. You cannot safely perform maintenance on a loaded weapon. The first act of any weapons maintenance is clearing said weapon and making sure it is, in fact, unloaded. Having live ammunition in a class room setting like this would serve absolutely no purpose. Further to Mr. Després experiences, I am forced to wonder if he was somehow more attentive to orders or intimidated by his superiors when he was on a range or in an exercise and he and his superior was actually armed?
I have no direct experience except for competitively shooting on CF Bases with active duty members of Canadian Forces. Only the participants (CF members and Civilians alike) are “armed” during these events and the only people I am the least bit intimidated by are the un-armed officers in charge. The presence of a armed person whom I have no reason to believe has ill intent toward myself or others does not intimidate me in the least.
Before and since my time in university there have been numerous incidences of “mass killings” in “gun free” zones such as schools, shopping malls, movie theatres, etc. One of the key similarities between all of these incidences at “gun free” zones is that they have occurred in gun free zones. As such there cannot be any “empirical evidence demonstrating that the presence of sworn armed security officers at universities helps to deter fanatics or terrorists.” The fact is that there has yet to be an mass killing event at a gathering of on-duty police officers who are armed. A logical inference is that the presence of an armed “victim” in and of itself deters potential attackers from acting.
The fact that following “mass killings” in the 1990s police forces have changed their tactics from “hold and wait” to “press and engage” when confronted with an active killer situation provides further support that the presence of an armed person who is motivated to confront the attacker with force is the best way to limit harm to innocents.
Regardless of the above, I don’t believe the university senate made the decision to allow on-duty police officers to carry their duty weapons while on campus and in class had very much to do with the idea of preventing a mass killing event. It is completely possible that they feel if police are considered safe with a firearm during any other on-duty activities than there is no reason to prevent them from carry weapons while on duty in the class room.
I find it curious that Mr. Després is of the opinion that the presence of officers in uniform and on duty will degrade the environment of learning and discussion in a University classroom setting. Opinions expressed in a class room are just that, opinions. If they can be backed up with reason and logic they may or may not sway the listen to the speakers point of view. If on-duty officers are somehow intimidating the rest of the students through words, actions or by some implied threat of use of force then there is a larger problem at hand. Those officers are acting in manner that is not appropriate and a discredit to their profession and fellow officers. Otherwise they are simply students taking (I assume) required studies pertinent to their profession, while on-duty.
A university classroom is just a room, with people with differing ideas seeking knowledge, the same as every room and person outside of the classroom. It is not some sort of sacrosanct space where the normal rules of human interaction are altered or suspended. If a police officer cannot be trusted with a holstered duty weapon in this setting, they cannot be trusted in any setting.
Bryan W. Bolivar, P.Eng (Barrie, Ont.)
Co-host of ‘Modern Rifleman Radio’ Podcast
Last week Memorial University Professor Stephen Crocker created a petition calling on the MUN Senate to reverse a decision it made last fall to allow police officers who are also students to attend classes while armed and on duty.
Justin Brake interviewed Dr. Crocker last weekend for The Indy News Hour on Keep Station Radio. Listen to the full interview (beginning around the 43:00 mark):