Evergreen students want rifles for campus cops

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Some students at the Evergreen State College want campus police officers to be armed with rifles in case of an attack by a gunman.

Located deep in the woods of Thurston County, the campus is in a tranquil setting, and campus police aim to keep it that way.

But some students worry about what they've seen across the country, including the shooting at Virginia Tech University where a fellow student killed 32 and wounded 17.

Also of concern to students is last month's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut where 20 children and six adult staff members were killed.

"With all of the shootings that are happening all over the country, we are not immune to violence on this campus," said Omar, an Evergreen student.

Students worry their campus police don't have the firepower to fight back. Campus police have handguns, but not high-powered
rifles like the officers at other four-year state universities.

"So these officers, they have committed to responding to a situation like that, but they're not going to have the tools to effectively respond to it. So it's jeopardizing their lives," said student Robb Anthony.

But three years ago, college administrators made the decision to allow handguns but no high-powered rifles. They reasoned Thurston County Sheriff's Office would respond quickly with rifles if they are ever needed.

"The choices here were made to protect the public safety," said college spokesman Jason Wettstein. "As it stands now, we might re-open this issue, but it's highly unlikely. The administration has decided not to go with the rifle policies."

A group of students wants to force the issue with a petition drive. The students have formed a group called Police Awareness of Student Safety, or PASS.

"I was under the impression this was a totally gun-free zone, that the police didn't even have guns. And that violence really wasn't an issue here," said student Brian Hayes. "But now that I find out they have pistols, I wonder what's the problem with having rifles."

Along with the petition drive, the students want lawmakers to pass a legislation to put high-powered weapons into the hands of the campus police.