Dozens of George Washington University students took to the streets Monday to voice their opposition to the school's plan to arm some campus police officers with guns.
Interim President Mark Wrighton announced in a letter to students Thursday that the university's Board of Trustees directed the administration to develop a plan to arm specially trained GW Police Department officers.
"While we are not aware of any heightened threat to our university, in recent years there have been too many tragic instances of mass gun violence in communities and on college campuses," Wrighton said in the letter, citing mass shootings at Michigan State University, the University of Virginia and an elementary school in Nashville.
But some students who marched to the president's campus home on Monday argued that arming officers will make them feel less safe.
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“I think arming them will only escalate situations, create tension between students, even though they want to emphasize community engagement, communication. This decision was not made by all students," student organizer Jovanna Walker said.
Wrighton said that the board's decision to equip some officers with firearms comes after a year of consideration, reviewing safety data and gettin input from experts.
He said unarmed officers are unable to respond to incidents that involve weapons.
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“Our supervisory officers, who are stationed on campus and know its geography best, are a very important part of emergency response," Wrighton said. "When weapons are involved, minutes matter.”
In an interview with the student newspaper The GW Hatchet, Wrighton said about 20 officers would be armed with 9 mm handguns.
“It can be done safely and with the rising of gun violence in America, a lot of the times if a person has a weapon, you’re not really going to be able to charge in unless you have a weapon yourself," one student told News4.
Wrighton said in his letter the school would get community input before moving forward with an "arming implementation plan."
Catholic University told News4 its special police force is armed and some of Howard University's police officers are armed, according to the school's website.
American University's officers are armed with less than lethal force, the school said. Gallaudet University said it has no armed officers.