(The Center Square) — A Rhode Island lawmaker has re-filed a bill to allow armed guards on state college campuses in response to heightened concerns about mass shootings.
The proposal, filed by state Rep. William W. O’Brien, D-North Providence, would authorize the state’s public colleges and universities, specifically Rhode Island College and the Community College of Rhode Island, to arm their security guards.
“Although it is utterly disturbing to acknowledge, active shooter and terrorism situations are not going away in our society, and most often, targets of these vile crimes are schools and other soft targets,” he said in a statement.
O’Brien, who has filed similar proposals, said he feels “more strongly than ever” about the need for armed campus security, with heightened fears about violence linked to the Israeli-Hamas war and the mass shooting in Lewiston, Maine that killed at least 18 people and injured dozens.
“I know this is a difficult topic for some to discuss, but in a world of active shooters and terrible tragedies determined by seconds and minutes, it is completely irresponsible for us to fail our students and staff by having to rely on off-campus law enforcement if the worst-case scenario should happen on our public campuses,” he said.
O’Brien said currently, the University of Rhode Island is the only public higher education institution that has armed security guards. He pointed out that Brown University, a prestigious private institution in Providence, has armed security guards.
In previous debates on the bill, both colleges have raised concerns about the cost of training and arming security guards, as well as the need for community outreach before authorizing a policy change. Some have estimated it could cost up to $30 million to arm all the security guards at the state’s public colleges and universities.
Rhode Island is also being urged to authorize armed security guards in public schools in the wake of recent mass shootings. One group, School Safety Now, is petitioning the Legislature to vote to fund a full-time law enforcement officer at our elementary and secondary schools.
“It is crucial to create a safe and secure learning environment for our children from the earliest stages of their education,” the group wrote in a letter. “A full-time dedicated law enforcement officer in each elementary school would not only serve as a deterrent to potential threats but would also be equipped to respond quickly and effectively in case of an emergency.”