Dear Campus Community,
In response to my recent message “Nurturing a Safe Campus Community,” I received several questions on the issue of gun violence, which I believe justifies a follow-up email on this important issue. We have all been affected by the images of enraged, scared and exhausted students, parents and educators wondering what can be done to stop school shootings like the most recent incident that claimed the lives of 17 people at a Florida high school.
First, I want to remind you that, per state law (WAC 516-52-020), only law enforcement professionals are permitted to carry firearms on campus, open or concealed. Anyone else who brings a firearm to campus must immediately place them in storage with University Police. The storage facility is located at the Department of Public Safety and is accessible 24 hours per day.
Second, I’d like to remind you of the resources available to support all community members suffering with mental health crises, and those who pose an imminent threat to themselves or others. Western's Counseling Center staff is available to meet or speak with any student. Counseling Center staff can be reached during normal business hours (8:30am-4:30pm) by calling 360-650-3164 and after hours by calling University Police Dispatch at 360-650-3555 and requesting to speak with the counselor on call. The Washington State Employee Assistance Program is a resource available for faculty and staff. EAP counselors are available for in-person or phone appointments. The EAP office can be reached by calling 877-313-4455, toll free. The toll-free, after-hours help line is 866-704-6364. TDD/TYY users, please call via WA Relay at 711.
It is our responsibility, as members of a caring community, to stay alert and encourage and help others to seek support, especially if we become aware of their intentions to harm themselves or others. To that end, there are several additional resources available to the Western community:
- University Police conduct regular active shooter drills on campus, both independently and in cooperation with local authorities. Quarterly Western Alerts not only test our emergency preparedness systems, but direct campus community members to several emergency preparedness videos. I urge you to take the time to watch these informative videos and familiarize yourself with actions that you can take if confronted with an active shooter scenario.
- The Department of Public Safety presents “Behaviors of Concern” training (scheduled as well as on request) to help orient the campus community to what to do when concerning behaviors are detected. This training includes how to report behaviors of concern to the Dean of Students and University Police, as well as information on our Care/Concern Team and Threat Assessment process.
Finally, there are several bills currently moving through the Washington state legislature that offer common sense restrictions while preserving the right for law-abiding citizens to own guns. If you are so moved, I urge you to contact your state representatives to voice your opinion on these measures.
- Senate Bill 6298 would add domestic violence harassment to the list of offenses for which a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm. SB 6298 passed the Senate floor with a 34-13 vote and is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.
- Senate Bill 5992 would ban trigger devices that allow semi-automatic rifles to fire more rapidly. The original legislation was amended to define the modifications as bump-fire stocks. SB 5992 passed both chambers and awaits a floor vote.
- Senate Bill 5553 is aimed at preventing suicide. It allows someone to voluntarily waive their rights to firearms when they’re in crisis or having thoughts of suicide. It also creates a process to revoke the waiver and have their right to buy or own a firearm reinstated so long as seven days have passed since they initially waived their rights. The bill has passed both chambers and awaits a floor vote.
- House Bill 2519 allows a person who is under 21 years of age and at least 18 years of age, to possess a concealed pistol license, if the person is an active duty member of the armed forces of the United States, a member of the national guard or the reserves of the armed forces of the United States, or an honorably discharged veteran. HB 2519 passed the House with a 94-4 vote and was passed to the Rules Committee for a second reading.
There are several additional measures introduced in the past that could be gathering momentum: SB 5050 and HB 1134 would ban the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines; SB 5444 and HB 1387 would require enhanced background checks for buying assault weapons like the one used in Florida; and SB 5463 would promote the safe storage of firearms.
I hope that each of us will do our part to ensure a safe campus and neighboring community.