Students protest for concealed carry at GV

GVL Archive / Luke Hotwagner
37 GVSU students are carrying open holsters around campus to protest the concealed weapons permit

GVL Archive / Luke Hotwagner 37 GVSU students are carrying open holsters around campus to protest the concealed weapons permit

Molly Waite and Anya Zentmeyer

As an executive board member for Grand Valley State University’s chapter of Students for Concealed Carry, Brad Rivard says he is among the most law-abiding segment of society.

“I am licensed by the state to carry in a host of places, I have undergone a background check by both the state and FBI, I have never committed a felony or misdemeanor or even been convicted of a reckless driving offense,” Rivard said.

Rivard and about 20 other students from the now 37-member strong group are wearing empty holsters on their sides through tomorrow as a symbolic protest to both GVSU policy and the state law, which prohibits carrying concealed weapons in dorms and classrooms on campus even with a concealed-carry permit (CPL).

“We feel that Michigan law and subsequently the student code wrongfully preclude qualified individuals from the ability to defend themselves and potentially the lives of others,” said James Gallagher, another SCC executive board member. “If I am legally allowed to carry in a bank, grocery store, movie theater and nearly all other places, why does crossing an imaginary line onto campus all of a sudden deem me not safe? The law is at worst unconstitutional, at best lacking all common sense and logic.”

From a law enforcement standpoint, Capt. Brandon DeHaan, assistant director of the GVSU Department of Public Safety, said one concern about citizens carrying firearms is the risk of these citizens being mistaken for a suspect.

“If there are armed, non-uniformed citizens, it makes it very difficult for law enforcement to determine who is the aggressor,” DeHaan said. “When officers respond to a shooter situation, they are looking for the person with a gun.”

DeHaan added that police officers are trained to deal with the high stress of a gun-related situation like a school shooting.

“There are certain factors that take place during periods of high stress,” DeHaan said. “Police officers receive many hours of training based on dynamic environments and experiences. During periods of high stress, motor skills are often lost.”

Rivard said he only advocates concealed carry to licensed CPL holders, not all students.

CPL holders undergo training in the use of deadly force, the only three instances it can be used – imminent danger of death, great bodily harm and rape – and how to avoid using it at all costs,” he said.

When not on campus, Rivard carries a Glock 26 – a 9mm subcompact pistol – most of the time. He said although he never hopes to use his firearm, he wants to be prepared provided he needs it. Rivard said he doesn’t view colleges or universities as being any different from any other venue in society, and although he believes the GVSU Police Department and its officers do their jobs well, they are not omnipresent.

“I don’t like the idea of being a helpless victim until the police arrive, both out in society and here on campus, as I don’t make a distinction between the two,” Rivard said.

DeHaan said the officers at GVSU train twice a year to respond to an active shooter on campus, but other members of the GVSU community can have a positive impact on the safety of campus.

“Being alert and aware of your surroundings and notifying the proper authorities has been very effective in preventing violence on campus,” DeHaan said. “We ask all of our students to be alert and be aware and be responsible for themselves and for their community.”

The Department of Public Safety provides information on its webpage,, about how to effectively respond to crime on campus, including a video that details the appropriate responses to a school shooting.

DeHaan noted, however, that school shootings are statistically rare, and GVSU has an overall low statistic of violent behavior.

Although the protest to allow concealed weapons has received a mixed response from administration and the student body, Rivard, Gallagher and the other members of SCC still believe in fighting for the cause.

“Concealed carry permit holders are five times less violent than the average citizen,” Gallagher said. “And to the cynics, I offer this statistic: in a survey of felons, the overwhelming consensus was that they feared entering people’s homes because they feared being shot. Translation: When criminals know there are guns present, they are much less likely to commit a crime. So when the law eliminates the possession of guns on campus, it gives a criminal a clear advantage. He knows he’s the only one with a gun anywhere around, and the when seconds count, the police are minutes away.”

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