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Bullet shells litter the ground at his feet.
They are scattered over the dirt and gravel, ranging in size and color. They stretch from where he sits to all over the range itself.
“This is the ‘evil’ AR-15, the one they are always trying to ban,” Dylan Hardy yells over the sound of firearms, aiming the device at a metal target.
The shells fly in all directions each time a shot is fired. Some hit the man to Hardy’s right, who’s positioning to shoot his own gun.
They know the party culture, the alcohol, the drugs — they know those prohibitions don’t work, so why would a gun prohibition do any better?
Hardy, a manufacturing engineering sophomore, shot his first gun when he was approximately 12 years old. His mother is “anti-gun,” but his father comes from a “good ol’ conservative family,” where guns have been passed down through the generations, Hardy said. The family doesn’t do much hunting, but they enjoy “plinking,” or shooting targets for fun.
“It’s just fun to me; I’m not sure why,” Hardy said. “I just enjoy it.”
Certain policies, including concealed carry permits and getting permission from the university president, allow licensed owners to carry firearms on campus.
Hardy said from what he’s found, the Cal Poly community doesn’t believe gun control policies work.
“Because, you know, they know the party culture, the alcohol, the drugs — they know those prohibitions don’t work, so why would a gun prohibition do any better?” he said.
Hardy keeps his guns at his parents’ house in Nipomo.
English senior Chris Gasser is from Roseville, and keeps most of his guns there. He does, however, keep some of them at his home in San Luis Obispo.
But neither student lives in their hometown anymore. And, according to them, Cal Poly has a different attitude toward firearms.
“My experience at Cal Poly has been very polarized,” Gasser said. “I’ve encountered people who are very pro-Second Amendment and very pro-firearm, and I’ve encountered people who are very against firearms.”
Gasser said he hasn’t seen too many moderate opinions.
University Police Chief George Hughes said he thinks Cal Poly is in a similar situation with many other campuses in terms of people’s attitudes toward guns.
“I think we have people who think we should have more restrictions, and then we have just as many who think we should have less restrictions and allow people to carry guns wherever they want,” he said.
Cal Poly falls under the Gun-Free School Zone Act, which states no one, whether or not they are associated with the school, can bring a weapon onto campus. Weapons include firearms, knives larger than 2.5 inches, daggers, tasers, bows and arrows, swords and more, Hughes said.
The exceptions to this rule include police officers, armed guards or if someone has permission from the president or his designee — in this case, Hughes.
For example, if a professor is lecturing about Civil War weapons and wants to bring one in, he or she can get permission to do so.
Additionally, if someone has a concealed weapon permit from the state of California, they may bring their firearm on campus and in the buildings.
A concealed weapon only applies to firearms, Hughes said, and they have to be concealable.
“What that means is, basically, it has to be a handgun,” he said.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff determines whether someone receives a permit. According to Hughes, someone has to show they are “of good-standing moral character,” which requires the Sheriff to check that person for a history of crimes, violence and to see if there is a history of mental illness, and that the person isn’t “a convicted felon of several different types of crimes.”
And in this county, someone also has to show a need or cause for that permit. For example, if someone received communication threatening his or her life, that could be considered a need, Hughes said.
Concealed or not, firearms are not allowed in the residence halls. And according to the Agriculture Student Housing License Agreement for 2013-14, no weapons are allowed in agricultural unit houses, either.
Hardy, who lives in Poly Canyon Village, said he would like to have his guns with him.
“Personally, I want to keep my guns in my room with me,” he said. “But I know people don’t like that, so (we) could probably find a good compromise there.”
Cal Poly has seen a few gun-related incidents. In February 2013, the University Police Department (UPD) confiscated a rifle from Sierra Madre Hall. This past November, a former football player was shot because of an alleged drug deal; one suspect was identified and charged with four felonies earlier this month. And the first week of fall quarter, a student died when he shot himself inside a house near campus.
The number of school shootings remained steady this year, according to an Associated Press article published in February, despite increased emphasis on security after the shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
One debate after the Sandy Hook shooting has centered on teachers carrying guns in order to protect themselves and their classrooms.
Hughes, however, disagrees with this approach.
“Personally, I don’t think that will help,” he said. “I don’t think that more guns will solve the problem of an active shooter on campus.”
It comes down to a couple of things, he said: One, there would have to be a significant amount of training that comes along with taking the responsibility of having that gun. He said the second reason involves the teacher’s motivation for having that gun — is it to protect him or herself or also the classroom?
By California State University mandate, UPD has to train at least once a year for active shooter situations. Hughes said UPD tries to train at least two to three times a year.
Hughes said police officers take responsibility and reliability for every bullet discharged from their gun, but wondered how that responsibility would transfer to faculty and students.
For example, if the bullet goes astray and hits someone else, would a faculty member be willing to take on that liability?
He considers it the same for students carrying firearms: Would the students be held to the same standard as police officers, he asked, or would they just start shooting wildly, possibly hitting innocent people trying to run away?
Hardy disagrees. He said if teachers were trained properly, they would be responsible with their firearm.
Gasser said he believes if the teacher is competent and comfortable with a firearm, they should be allowed to defend themselves and their students.
“But I don’t think it should be a requirement, especially if somebody is not competent or willing to use a firearm,” he said. “Because that would just put them in a situation where it wouldn’t be healthy.”