Should campus security have guns? N.J. colleges are split

As recently as two years ago, Princeton University officials said its Ivy League campus was no place for guns, not even for security personnel.

“We have in place a number of measures that will ensure that if there is a risk … police can rapidly have the appropriate response without having our own police officers armed,” President Shirley Tilghman told The Daily Princetonian at the time.

But that was 2013, before Umpqua Community College, Texas Southern University, Northern Arizona University, Delta State University and dozens of other American colleges and universities where people have been shot and sometimes killed.

And so within the past week, Princeton joined a growing number of institutions of higher learning that are arming their school security squads.

The decision to arm college and university security personnel is complex, with administrators having to balance the deterrent effect that armed police may have against the cost of arming and training security team members, law enforcement and researchers say. Liability also is a concern, they said.

Colleges and universities across New Jersey take a range of approaches toward giving security forces firearms. A majority of four-year public schools have armed security, but most community colleges do not. A survey of seven private, four-year universities found similarly mixed results.

In Princeton’s case, the university considered the question several times in recent years, but it was beat back by student and administration opposition. The decision to arm campus police officers this time came after the university’s Department of Public Safety consulted with local police, before the recent rash of campus shootings.

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