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ISSUE 117 VOL 4 PUBLISHED 10/10/2003

Editorial: Signs of the times

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, October 10, 2003

As students returned to campus this fall, they were met with many familiar sights – first years moving in mass conglomerations, Maureen from Bon Appétit swiping caf cards and President Thomforde getting weepy during convocation. But, one glaring new addition darkened the doorways of residence halls to Buntrock and everywhere in between. Signs can now be seen on every building entrance, stating: “St. Olaf College bans guns on these premises.”

Incoming first years and their parents may have wondered if the St. Olaf bubble had been punctured with violence. No, no, not to worry. Rather, the Minnesota legislature passed a new conceal-and-carry law that requires all business and property owners who don’t want guns on their property to post signs.

What is the purpose of the law? According to promoters they want to reduce gun violence by requiring people to have permits to carry weapons. But, the people who are going to be committing rampant crime aren’t going to be going down to their local precincts to apply for the permit. In addition, Minnesota’s low crime rate, and Northfield’s even lower gun crime doesn’t bode well for arguments that this law is needed for protection.

We are against the new conceal-and-carry law, and hope that come this winter term the Minnesota democrats will make a push to revoke the new law. But our main concern is the technical murkiness of the law and follow-through of the college.

The obvious eyesore of signs defacing campus buildings is second to the confusion surrounding the necessity of posting signs. Northfield police have suggested that each organization consult their legal counsel as to how to comply with the law, because, according to Northfield Police Chief Gary Smith, the law is “very vague and confusing.” St. Olaf’s lawyers have suggested posting signs on all buildings. Other colleges like Carleton are only posting signs at main campus entrances and the University of Minnesota have chosen not to post at all.

While St. Olaf is just trying to comply with the state regulations, the measures seem a bit absurd. Standing at one spot by Old Main, there are nine signs visible stating the banning of guns. St. Olaf has always banned guns except in locked cases meant for hunting. The signs create an interesting paradox between student safety and the fact that our p.o.’s don’t even have locks, and the most scandalous policy change this fall is the recent addition to condom dispensers in residence hall bathrooms.

As an academic institution this is a place to expand our minds and break down societal barriers. There is no reason to have guns here. The proliferation of signs gives visitors a false impression that guns are a major problem at St. Olaf.

The conceal-and-carry law should be repealed. We understand St. Olaf’s position of protecting themselves from lawsuits and following their lawyer’s guidance. But the signs have to go. So, the only way to do that is to change the law. It must be repealed at the very least, academic institutions and places of worship should not have to post the signs.

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