By John Connolly
The Student Government Association (SGA) senate passed its first resolution on Monday, November 30th.
Presented by Class of 2016 Senator Matt Hanrahan, Resolution 001 calls for “officers within the Department of Public Safety at the Catholic University of America [to] be equipped with firearms on their person to ensure their ability to prevent and or respond to an active shooter scenario or any other threat that may occur.”
Hanrahan, who was raised roughly fifteen minutes away from Sandy Hook, Connecticut, said his close ties with a community that suffered a mass shooting was just one reason to push for the passage of the resolution.
“To most people, school shootings have become just another tragedy that they think could never happen to them,” said Hanrahan. “The Sandy Hook shooting had a tremendous affect on me, and made me realize that truly anything can happen at any time. We hope that this bill can prevent such a tragedy from occurring on our campus.”
Hanrahan expressed that having armed DPS officers will help ensure a rapid and quick response should an emergency occur.
“We would like to have our campus police armed and have the ability to respond to or prevent an active shooting, rather than having to solely rely on the Metropolitan Police Department,” said Hanrahan.
In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Metro Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier emphasized that timing is critical in an active shooter situation. However, she said that the police could only respond so quickly.
“Most active shooters kill most of the victims in 10 minutes or less, and the best police department in the country’s going to be about a five-to-seven minute response” said Lanier.
Hanrahan said he and others he has spoken to feel that the five-to-seven minute police response time is “too long to be comfortable with” and that having a force that could neutralize a threat on campus would ensure greater safety.
SGA President Anne St. Amant said many of the senators felt “this is a necessary safety measure because unfortunately, it is a growing fear that has been realized on college campuses across the nation.”
St. Amant also feels the resolution will raise student awareness and increase communication with DPS.
“Initially, DPS refused to have a formal hearing with students here on campus…so I’m hoping what comes from this resolution is at least a dialogue between students and Public Safety,” said St. Amant.
Department of Justice data shows that roughly two thirds of four-year college campuses have armed officers in 2012. Around 90% of public universities have armed officers while only 36% of private universities utilize them.
Thomasine Johnson, the Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Emergency Management, said that the Public Safety office has received the passed resolution and that it will “be reviewed and discussed with the University leaders.”
Many students felt that SGA decision is a prudent one. Freshmen Liz Friden felt that it would be a great way to make the campus safer.
“Let’s face it. We go to the Catholic University of America…we need to be prepared for what’s going on in campuses and in cities across the world,” said Friden. She also believes that, “with proper training, requirements, and restrictions, armed DPS officers can make our campus safer in times of crisis.
However, some were not entirely satisfied with the motion.
“I think in light of all the horrific attacks that have happened recently, the thoughts of having armed DPS officers is somewhat of a comfort,” said Nursing major Lea Skokowski. “However, I don’t know how necessary it is.”
While the SGA resolution does not have enforcement power, it serves as an expression of support from SGA members to bring the discussion to the University administration.