By Chris Cunningham
The Scene staff
A challenge to the St. Louis Zoo’s gun policy could prove instructive to officials at St. Louis Community College.
Last month, Ohio gun activist Jeff Smith threatened to carry a gun in the zoo, which prohibits firearms. But his plan was thwarted by a temporary restraining order. He declined to reveal his next step when contacted by KSDK-TV.
The zoo is considered an educational institution, so Missouri law protects its gun ban. The same law allows St. Louis Community College campuses to prohibit students, faculty, staff and visitors from carrying firearms.
“The college’s policy is there are no weapons allowed on campus, unless you are police officer, FBI agent or federal law enforcement,” said Forest Park Police Chief Richard Banahan. “State law has dictated this.”
Student opinions vary on the college’s gun policy.
“If they have the license, then it shouldn’t be a problem (carrying a firearm),” said Funeral Directing student Antonio Dorsey, 23.
Criminal justice student Seydi Koita, 38, disagrees.
“It’s not safe for everyone, because things happen,” she said. “They could get into an altercation or even an accident, whether or not they pass a background check.”
Missouri is a licensed open-carry state, which means people can carry firearms openly if they have a permit. However, state statute 571.030 protects gun bans by educational institutions.
The college’s gun policy, found in the student handbook, reads:
“Except for licensed police officers, no person shall possess or carry any firearm, visible or concealed, on college property (including college buildings and grounds, leased or owned by the college, college athletic fields and parking lots) or in any college van or vehicle or at college sponsored events.”
Banahan said there have been only a handful of firearm incidents on campus during his 17-year tenure.
“At this point, it isn’t a problem,” he said. “We have had very, very limited issues with weapons on campus, as best as I can tell. I can’t remember the last times had a firearms issue on campus.”
Last year, Forest Park police responded to the cafeteria after someone reported that a student involved in a fight was carrying a firearm. However, police reported that no gun was found.
Banahan said the college’s gun policy is necessary.
“We believe that students can only learn if they feel they are in safe environment,” he said. “We are here to help the students learn and we believe this policy helps us accomplish that goal.”