The possession of a firearm in certain areas, like emergency rooms, athletic events or polling places, is prohibited in Lincoln — including on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus.

Like 15 other states, it is illegal for students to have concealed or unconcealed weapons on campuses in Nebraska. UNL abides by the law as outlined in the university’s concealed weapons policy.

According to the policy, “Possession of dangerous weapons — concealed or unconcealed — on University property, on the worksite, in University vehicles, or in personal vehicles when on University property shall be a violation of UNL policy.”

Hassan Ramzah, the assistant chief of police for the UNL police department, said the concealed carry policy is campus-wide, so it covers all university-owned ground and personal and university vehicles.

The dangerous weapons listed in the policy include guns, knives, explosives or any other device that could result in death, injury or harm to another person.

There are exceptions to this policy. According to Ramzah, other city law enforcement officers carry weapons, athletes use firearms in competition and students sometimes transport their firearms across campus to weapon storage facilities at the university police station.

In the two and a half years Ramzah has been with UNLPD, he said he hasn’t encountered many situations when students had issues with the weapons policy. He said the policy is “pretty well-known” on campus.

Josh Harris, president of the UNL College Republicans and a freshman biological sciences and political science double major, said the club encourages the university to allow concealed carry on campus for permit holders who have passed a background check and the State Patrol class. He said it’s their right to carry a concealed weapon.

“These students, all of which would be Nebraska residents of 21 years of age or older, have committed both their time and financial resources to obtain their permit,” he said. “Additionally, they follow the local, state and federal laws to ensure gun safety while at the same time exercising their God-given Second Amendment right.”

Junior business administration major and member of UNL College Republicans and Young Americans for Liberty Andrew Klingemann agreed with Harris’ support of allowing concealed weapons on campus.

“I feel like if you’ve gone through the process and taken the concealed carry courses and everything that they go over everything in those, it’s pretty intensive,” he said. “And if you’ve got that concealed carry permit then I don’t see a reason to why your right stops when you come on a public university.”

UNL Young Democrats president and senior actuarial science major Connor French said the club supports the current campus policy prohibiting concealed or unconcealed weapons. According to French, the possibility of an accident or people with bad intentions slipping through the cracks of the system remains even with background checks.

“Sometimes, someone who wants to be the Good Samaritan can end up shooting the wrong person or somebody can get hurt in the crossfire,” he said “Or, on top of that, background checks aren’t 100 percent effective and there can still be somebody with a lot of troubles who ends up being a school shooter.”

According to Harris, those who have concealed carry permits can prevent crime.

He said the club believes concealed carry ultimately allows for a much safer environment as there have been national cases where individuals with concealed carry permits have prevented crime.

French added that it isn’t the students’ responsibility to protect themselves; it’s UNL’s job to ensure safety.

Ramzah said variables like location and the carrier’s status can determine UNLPD’s approach in handling a policy violation. He said the repercussions also hinge on those variables, since campus policy and city, state or federal laws can apply differently in different situations.

He said pepper spray and similar devices are exceptions to the campus rule.

Pepper spray is not necessarily considered a dangerous weapon, Ramzah said, although it’s capable of rendering someone incapacitated.

Isabelle Johnson, a senior broadcasting, film studies and women’s and gender studies triple major, supports the current concealed weapons policy, but she does carry pepper spray in her car. Although, she remembered an off-campus experience when she wished she had a stronger form of defense.

“I woke up in the middle of the night to this guy screaming at this woman,” she said. “I don’t know if they were dating or whatever. He kept screaming, ‘You’re coming home with me,’ and she’s like, ‘No, I’m not. No, I’m not.’ And that’s what I woke up to, and I raced downstairs and was like, ‘I have nothing to help this girl.’”

Ramzah said students should be aware of their surroundings, check the daily crime and fire log on UNL's website and report suspicious activity to protect themselves without a gun, knife or similar device. He also recommended the escort service, which allows students to call UNLPD and request a police officer to walk with them on campus to where they need to go.

“We try to stay pretty visible around campus and available when someone calls,” Ramzah said. “We try to do everything we can to be responsive to safety needs … and that’s some of the ways that we promote safety and look [after] students, faculty and staff and visitors that arrive on campus.”

This article was originally published in the April/May 2019 special edition of The DN.