After a gun scare that took place in the Students’ Union Building August 12, University of Alberta Protective Services is pushing to develop a clear guideline under the university’s current firearms policy that outlines bringing fake weapons onto campus.
The incident involved a small group of students shooting a movie in the basement of the building with imitation paintball guns.
Although incapable of firing projectiles, UAPS director Bill Mowbray said the witness interpreted the props as assault weapons. This led to SUB being searched and evacuated by UAPS — immediately joined by Edmonton Police Services.
Prior to filming, the student group called UAPS to notify them that they would be shooting a scene with the fake firearms on Saturday. However, this took place at a different location, and no mention of filming on Sunday at SUB was given.
“Naturally, of course, we responded because we thought the other filming was over and done with the day before,” said Mowbray. “It’s just a miscommunication issue.”
UAPS Firearms Sergeant Tony Larson said there was no criminal intent in this circumstance, but any real weapons brought on campus would be a serious offence.
“The University of Alberta prohibits anyone from bringing any firearm or weapon onto this campus. The policy that we have currently clearly indicates that,” he said.
Larson said there were some exceptions to this, noting that the university is a research intensive institution that would allow firearms on campus in controlled environments for academic
The policy states that “Privately owned firearms are not allowed (whether being transported or used) on University owned, leased, rented or controlled properties without the approval of Campus Security Services and the appropriate Dean or Unit Director.”
However it does not cover anything regarding imitation firearms such as in the case of SUB.
“Right now we’re relying on people using common sense and giving us a call,” said Mowbray.
“I don’t think that’s a wise option for the future. I think we really need to develop a policy and a procedure if you’re going to be using imitation firearms on campus — things that might startle or alarm other people,” he said.
Larson also noted many calls are made to police within the provincial capital district about suspicious firearm sightings with the majority turning out to be false alarms, but still encourages anyone to call the police with concerns.
Mowbray doesn’t want to see the prohibition of fake or real weapons on campus for the use of legitimate research or projects, but he does want to see the policy extended to ensure the safety of everyone on campus.
“Our goal here in the future is not to prevent these things from happening, it’s actually to assist them and allowing them to continue without this type of interruption,” he said.
The entire campus firearm policy can be viewed on the university’s policies and procedures website.
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