Firearms, certifications help Augustana prepare for danger

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Augustana Observer, File Photo

Safety is a top priority at Augustana College, and students and faculty are going the extra mile to protect the community by being educated about firearms and how to respond in an emergency situation.
In 2014, Augustana established a new police department on campus which allowed some public safety officers to carry weapons. The police department allows officers who knows the campus’ buildings to respond quicker and help other emergency forces in case of a crisis.
“The reason is so we can respond to any and all types of emergencies we might encounter on campus”, said Tom Phillis, the chief of public safety and police for Augustana College. “Overall, the reaction has been very positive, both from people within the community and the campus, and even people outside of the campus. I think it makes people feel safer.”
With Public Safety at Augustana beefing up its its safety measures, students have also done their part. Augustana senior Ryan McCormic has taken steps in order to be properly trained if he needed to use a weapon.
“It’s one those things where you hope you don’t need to use your On-Star in your car,” said McCormic.. “You hope you don’t need to use your gun, if someone threatens your life or someone else’s life, it’s there if you need it.
McCormic is an owner of a Firearm Owner Identification, or FOID card, an ID that is earned through the state of Illinois and allowss the owner to legally possess a firearm. In order to obtain the ID, the applicant must be approved through extensive background checks and submit paperwork online before receiving the license.
Senior Connor Zinn has also earned his certification for owning a firearm. However, because Zinn is a resident of Littleton, CO, he does not have to go through the same process of owning a FOID card, becausebecause Colorado gun gun laws differ from Illinois differ from Illinoise. He cannot own a firearm in the state of Illinois, unless he applies for a FOID card.
“In my family, I was raised with the notion that a firearm is a tool for self-defense” said Zinn. “It’s been proven that the more good guys who have firearms, the less crime in the area that happens.”
Protection and self-defense are important within a small community like Augustana. However, McCormic wants to defend more people by joining the Marines.
“I joined the Marine Corp.,, so I could defend people, so I’ll be a little hypocritical if I didn’t do that oversees,,” said McCormic. “I feel like I’m going the right path with this military career as an officer so I can lead people to protect anyone”.
McCormic’s ambitions in joining the Marine Corp. began when he was training to be a nurse and workeded in the emergency room. He loved the action and the need to help people, but it wasn’t for him. He then started training for a military career once he once he realizeded he wanted to be a part of a fighting force and defend his country.
“My end goal is go home at the end of the day one day and say, you know what, I made this world a safer place,,” said McCormic.
Although Augustana is not nearly as dangerous as places where the Marines fight, crimes do occur on campus.
According to Augustana Public Safety crime statistics, there have been no murders and no weapon violations as of 2013. Augustana advises students not to wander into certain areas off-campus for their own safety, but sometimes the danger wanders onto campus.
“I was walking people back at 1 a.m. from a party, and there were three guys walking on the slough path who definitely didn’t belong there,,” said McCormic. “Some guy who was ahead of me coming from the event as well, and he said that he was pretty sure those guys were following [him] and they had a knife.”
McCormic hurried his friends to the Thomas Tredway Library steps where it was well lit and then called the police. The police arrived on the scene and arrested all three of the men. The men are permanently banned from campus.
“Now had that kid not been there and I had walked down the campus slough anyways, there could have been a really good chance someone would have gotten stabbed that night,” he said.
McCormic was not armed during that time, but if things got out of control, McCormic’s training and instincts could have saved lives that night.
Incidents like these are rare when it comes to campus arrests; however, suspicious activity does come from people from Rock Island and occasionally make their way near campus. It can cause a threat to students and families around the area.
“I know Rock Island isn’t a super safe county or city,” said Zinn. “Bu,” said Zinn. “But I think Public Safety and Augustana Police do have a wide enough area and enough people to make sure we’re safe..”
Even though Augustana goes out of their way to make sure the community is safe, they do permit students to own registered firearms on off-campus housing.
“Owning a gun is a personal choice,” said Phillis. “I don’t have an opinion if it’s a good idea or a bad idea. but I do believe if someone is going to go out and buy a gun, they need the proper training on how to use it, when to use it, how to take care of it and practice using it..”