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ISSUE 117 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/19/2003

New signs ban guns

By Maren Daniel
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 19, 2003

Over Labor Day weekend, many arriving students and parents noticed new signs reading "St. Olaf College bans guns in these premises." Posted at the entrances to the residence halls, the signs were put up in August to comply with the May Minnesota Personal Protection Act. The act states that a permit holder may carry a gun wherever a sign specifically banning guns is not displayed.

Although Residence Life Director Pamela Mannebach is no more concerned with the number of guns on campus than she was before the act was passed, she wants the signs to make it clear that St. Olaf is not a place to carry guns.

"There haven’t been a lot of firearms here in the past," she said, "and I’m not worried that this law has brought any more to campus. The signs are to make sure we’re in compliance."

Dean of Students Greg Kneser is not worried about an increase in guns on campus either.

"I don’t anticipate problems," he said. "There wasn’t a great problem before. I’m more concerned with the perception people have about what St. Olaf is doing about this."

Target and Marshall Field’s, two of Minnesota’s largest retailers, have chosen not to put up signs banning guns in their stores. The result has been that some people have begun boycotting them. Kneser would like the public to know that the college is still just as free of guns as it always has been.

While the signs are only posted on residence halls now, they will soon be

posted on academic buildings, the Buntrock Commons, and the rest of the buildings on campus.

The Personal Protection Act is vague as to exactly where guns are allowed. It does state clearly that guns may be banned from buildings and must not be banned from parking lots; however it does not speak to other places on private property.

"Some things are still unclear. There’s gray area about the campus green," Kneser said. He and Mannebach would both like to see the law changed so that they could put up one sign banning guns on the entire campus.

Student permit holders are not required to identify themselves. However, the administration would discuss the intentions of any holder brought to its attention with him or her. Hunting guns may be stored in a locker in the public safety office, although Mannebach said that this has never been widely used. There is a $25 fine for anyone caught with a gun in the residence halls and any other marked building.

All marked buildings carry the same white signs with black ink. The law indicates how big the lettering must be, exactly how the signs must read and what fonts are allowed to be used. The font and coloring on St. Olaf’s letterhead and logos are not allowed. The law also says that the signs must be placed in conspicuous locations. If the signs did not follow regulations, a permit holder carrying a gun would not be in violation and therefore not subject to the fine.

While St. Olaf and other private institutions have the right to ban guns, cities do not have the same right on public property. Minnesota’s pre-emption law does not allow cities, counties, or town municipalities to pass laws more restrictive than those of the state. According to the League of Minnesota Cities, a city may ban its employees from carrying guns while on the job. Public schools and city buses may ban guns as well.

Similar acts passed in the rest of the country have caused controversy. Gun rights activists in Mesa, Arizona gathered to protest a public library’s no-gun policy, according to the Citizens for a Safer Minnesota Education Fund. Demand has risen in South Carolina to allow guns in schools and libraries. Legislation has been passed in Kentucky and Texas preventing churches from banning guns in their facilities.

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