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ISSUE 117 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/10/2003

Carleton rejects new gun signs: college views concealment law differently

By Krista Haagenstad
Staff Writer

Friday, October 10, 2003

The crosstown rivals St. Olaf and Carleton have always had their differences. However, this year a new difference has surfaced, literally, on every building.

Unlike St. Olaf, Carleton has decided not to post signs on their buildings banning guns in reaction to Minnesota’s new conceal-and-carry law. They will be posting signs on the two main entrances to their campus soon, but have no intention to post on every building.

Carleton’s main reason for not posting signs is because it views this action as only one-half of the requirement for the new law. The administration believes that the other half requires property owners to also personally notify each person entering the building that they do not allow guns on their property. They believe that without both of these components, permit-holders with concealed weapons may still legally bring their firearms into the building.

The conceal-and-carry law can be interpreted in numerous ways. Northfield Police Chief Gary Smith consulted several attorneys on the topic, and each gave him a different explanation.

"The law is really vague and complicated," Smith said.

Because of their view of the law, Carleton decided that they could not logistically staff every single door on their campus. Thus, they have chosen not to change the aesthetic appearance of their buildings.

"Although we think it is important to make an institutional statement about guns, we don’t think it furthers the point to clutter every building with excess signage. We hope we struck a balance that is comfortable for Carleton," said Joe Hargis, Interim Vice President for External Relations at Carleton.

The Northfield police have been trying to help the town adjust to the logistics of this new law.

"We are trying to provide information to businesses and residents," said Smith. "Some people believe that posting signs will be a deterrent towards gun violence. However, some people say that it will only send a negative message to their customers and visitors. Our job is just to urge compliance with the new law. If either campus is having problems with an individual with a gun, we will respond and try to help deal with the situation in a way that complies with the law."

Last April, the state of Minnesota passed the conceal-and-carry handgun law, which requires sheriffs to issue handgun permits to almost any law abiding Minnesotan over 21. The law forbids carrying guns on school property, but allows permit holders to store their guns in their car trunks while visiting schools. Private business are allowed to forbid guns if they post signs at every entranceway.

Carleton sophomore Steve Harris does not think that posting signs would change anything. "I don’t think the environment here warrants too much concern over guns. If this was the U of M, I might think differently. But the environment on our campus is much friendlier being a much smaller community."

St. Olaf views the law differently. Greg Kneser, dean of students at St. Olaf, is aware of the stipulation of the law. However, he believes that "posting the signs is the only way we can fully enforce an institutional ethic that guns have no place on our campus."

He is hesitant about the aesthetic affects the signs have on St. Olaf’s buildings. "Honestly, I despise them," he said. "But the alternative, in my opinion, is worse." However, he says that he has yet to receive any complaints.

"I think the signs look tacky taped to all our doors," said Megan Singel ‘06. "And I don’t think it’s something our campus needs to worry about. Hopefully people are going to respect the fact that this is a school and a church and that will deter them from bringing guns onto our campus."

On Tuesday, a group of 23 churches filed a lawsuit against the conceal and carry law. This is the second lawsuit filed by religious groups against the law. This summer, another group of over 40 churches succeeded in getting a temporary restraining order against the law on the basis that it interferes with their religious practices. However, this restraining order applies only to churches, and may be retracted depending on the outcome of the trial. The ruling may force legislators to clarify the wording of the law, which may affect what St. Olaf and Carleton need to do to comply.

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