By Josh Friedman || Contributing Writer
On Wednesday Feb. 28, I almost bought a gun. Well… not really. I went to Gun Gallery inc. — a local gun store that just recently opened up — to learn a little more about the gun purchase and ownership process. What I found was alarming.
CEO Brian Buecker was attending to another client when I arrived. When he turned to me I introduced myself as a local non-gun owner who was interested in learning more about purchasing a firearm for home defense. We spoke at length and decided that with my needs, I should be in the market for a handgun. He showed me an array of options ranging anywhere from $180-$1100. I made it clear that I was browsing on that occasion but did not want to wait very long to purchase.
Buecker told me time would be no issue. If I wished, I could have him run a mandatory background check ranging anywhere from a few seconds to three hours, depending on what was found, and with a valid drivers license, I could be a gun owner that very same day. Seeing as I assume my background check would come back without any red flags, I could even walk in and leave with a gun and ammunition in the same hour.
I did not ask if Buecker sold bump stocks, used in the Las Vegas mass shooting allowing for near fully-automatic fire, but the state of Pennsylvania has no law barring their purchase. Many customers came in with very specific requests and Buecker told them all that he could have what they were looking for in a few days. So an AR-15 with a bump stock and ammunition would be of little difficulty to acquire.
In 2016, the Citizens Crime Commission of NYC published a startling study on the rise in shootings on or near college campuses since the 2001-2002 school year. The study looked at 190 cases from 142 colleges where at least one person (excluding the shooter) was intentionally shot in each case. “Unsurprisingly, the increase was most profound on colleges in states with increased access to guns,” author of the study Ashley Cannon said. Buecker’s business is down the street from campus on Dillerville Road, just passed the Waffle House and Wendy’s.
If I so wished to, I could walk over to Buecker’s shop, pass a background check, buy any gun of various calibers and magazine sizes, and walk back to campus armed. This frightens me.
To be honest, I am worried about having weapons so readily available near my college campus. I am concerned that with the size of a handgun, a student could walk to class, to lunch, to the library or a common hour with a loaded firearm in his or her backpack, and not a single person present would know. I am concerned that when I go to my classes on the second or third floor of a building, a random person could walk in through a door and I would be at his or her mercy. I am trying to play devil’s advocate with myself, but I can’t find a reason to call this an irrational fear.
Buecker intends to install a gun range in the back of the building as soon as he can get the necessary permits. He intends to use it for firearm safety and operation training as well as target shooting. I have no issue with this. At this moment, Pennsylvania is a open carry state where an individual not only doesn’t need a permit or training to own a gun, but also does not need a permit to carry one. An inexperienced gun buyer who may have never held a gun is just as eligible to purchase a handgun as he or she is to buy an AR-15 from Buecker’s shop. If Buecker intends to educate his customers on proper gun ownership, then I support that pursuit.
On F&M’s website, the policy stands that, “Franklin & Marshall College strictly prohibits the introduction, possession or use of weapons everywhere on campus and college owned or controlled properties off campus.” Unfortunately, I believe it goes without saying that students on campus don’t always adhere to every campus policy on possession of restricted items.
Dean Margaret Hazelett sent out a campus wide email expressing the schools disapproval of the establishment’s location. “The College was not consulted about this, and has taken immediate steps to let the local zoning authorities and property owner know of our objections. President Porterfield will speak at a local authority meeting to express the College’s concerns,” Hazelett said. I am in full agreement with the stance of our administration.
As students, it is our responsibility to communicate our support for our administrators and their advocacy for our continued health and well-being. The school has taken a clear initiative to promote our safety and it is vital that as empowered students, we do our part to help in this effort.