It’s gotten to the point where I have to pinch myself when I wake up each morning. It’s not some odd dream; not some perverted nightmare. It is the reality that has become so commonplace over the last 8 years that it is written off as par for the course. Mention the word security and suddenly you’re granted a no questions asked get out of jail free card. The worst part is, the card comes with the kitchen sink and keys to the safe. In this case it looks like those keys are in fact to the gun safe. As a recent Arizona State University grad this one hits close to home.
Yesterday (March 5th) the Arizona Republic reported that all three of Arizona’s major universities’ police departments have adopted plans to purchase military grade assault rifles in the immediate future. The Republic reported that Arizona State University (ASU) will be the first of the big three to adopt the weapons. In fact, according to the article ASU has already purchased four assault rifles and is in the process of raising funds for the purchase of four more. The assault rifles are to be distributed among the campus police vehicles – yeah, police cars with machine guns sitting in them around campus -where they will remain until needed.
So, what’s the justification for putting assault rifles on our college campuses? “Active Shooter” situations in which the University/Police Department claim there may not be sufficient time for SWAT to arrive. Which might sound great unless you are familiar with ASU’s main campus. The catch lies in the details. You see, the Tempe police department is located kitty corner to the ASU Campus. In fact if you include the Brickyard (on Mill) & The Towers (Dorms) you could even argue that the Tempe Police Department is located ON ASU’s campus. If you decide to focus instead on ASU Main’s central core the police station is some 1,000 feet off campus. Take a look for yourself:
I realize that the setting and environment are a bit different, but besides the obvious issues, hasn’t history taught us a few lessons about this sort of thing? The “Under Siege” image I created at the top of this post was created by combining a photo of the U.S. Flag and an old black & white photo from the 1970 Kent State incident. A historic moment which illustrated all too well the dangers of combining university populations, protests, and automatic weapons.
I appreciate that police vehicles are fairly secure, but are they really THAT secure? After all Arizona was ranked as the state with the most vehicle thefts per capita in 2001. The last statistics I saw stated that we had improved to 4th in 2006.
It just doesn’t make sense to me. Especially when I reflect on my various experiences with the Tempe/Campus Police. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a perfect record (not so much as a speeding ticket), the utmost respect for the men and women in our police force, and a number of friends who are officers – but I’ve also seen extremely disappointing behavior by the Tempe/Campus Police. I’ll never forget one occasion where an officer threatened to Tazer me if I didn’t walk faster as I was leaving a house party or a discussion I had with a friend working for campus security as he laughed about the reputation one of the Campus Officers had for excessive Tazering. When dealing with students the rules often get bent. They don’t know their rights, have not accumulated a lot of real world experience and are still viewed by society as youths. It shouldn’t happen but it does. Even in casual interactions with the Campus Police there was always a feeling of disdain or an automatic presumption of guilt. That tone was completely different than the helpful, open sincere vibes I’ve received from the other Valley police.
My goal isn’t to harp on the Tempe/Campus Police, rather my goal is to offer some basic perspective as a recent grad on the environment and student/officer relationship on campus and why – beyond the issues of rights, safety, and common sense – assault rifles and ASU shouldn’t mix.
I know assault rifles are cool – but let’s face it, are students really THAT scary?