The president of Memorial University’s Graduate Students’ Union, Joey Donnelly, has recently spoke out to media following an incident on campus last Tuesday, February 18––in which a man, suspected of breaking into cars, attempted to flee in a stolen SUV as an RNC officer fired a single shot. However, Donnelly has been not been framing the discussion about whether or not the RNC officer should have fired his weapon, but instead, to discuss what he sees as “excessive police force” on campus. Most notably, this includes suggesting that on-duty RNC officers, who are attending classes at Memorial, should not be allowed to carry firearms on campus. By taking such a reactionary stance, Donnelly appears ignorant to the many realities of crime in the city of St. John’s.
According to a Statistics Canada survey released in July of 2013, St. John’s had the fourth-highest crime rate in Canada for 2012. This includes beating out many large metropolitan areas, such as Vancouver, Halifax, Edmonton, and Toronto. As well, while data is not yet available for 2014, going through the archive of any Newfoundland news site will find articles related to a drive-by shooting, or other acts of organized crime and biker-gang activity. At this point, it is undeniable that crime is becoming a serious issue for the city, and all levels of authority need to create policies to reflect these issues, including our own university administration.
The aforementioned policy, which allows active duty uniformed officers to carry firearms to class, was passed by the university senate with an overwhelming majority in November. Specifically, out of the 43 senators who voted on the matter, excluding the four abstentions, only four, including Donnelly, voted against this motion. Such a clear majority voted for this policy, because ultimately, it makes sense. On-duty officers could be forced to leave the classroom at any time if an emergency or crisis could emerge, whether on-campus or off. Requiring them to take extra time to reequip themselves could mean the difference in life and death for those at risk.
A substantial portion of Donnelly’s argument references that the presence of guns could make students uncomfortable and deter their ability to learn in the classroom. However, while the validity of that statement is increasingly questionable, such feelings, if true, should not be accepted as a reason to reverse this policy. Regardless of how a few bleeding hearts feel, we cannot sacrifice our safety due to seeing an individual, who is highly trained and accountable, carrying a firearm. This is such a non-issue that the GSU are raising when they could be spending time asking more pertinent questions.
Overall, this is to not an issue of gun-control in the province, nor is this a defense for students to have an increased access to firearms for their own protection. Instead, this is a message of support for a policy that is getting illogically attacked due to recent events. While the actions of the RNC officer in question is right to be investigated by the RCMP, we should not use this as an excuse to attack an effective policy which can protect individual of the university community, both inside and out.