After a group of protesters came through campus on Monday openly carrying firearms in a move to protest Ohio and Ohio State gun policies, a similarly sized group of students gathered on Wednesday to critique the university’s response to the protesters.
About 15 students, faculty and Columbus residents gathered outside Bricker Hall at 1 p.m. to ask for a statement from University President Michael Drake condemning the protesters as well as the bringing of assault weapons on campus. After walking inside Bricker and reaching the president’s office, they were turned away by a secretary, who said they could work with the existing scheduling system to set up a meeting.
Austin Kocher, the student who organized the group, said he sent a notice in to Drake on Wednesday morning announcing they would be there, as well as asking for a meeting. Although he said he didn’t necessarily expected reach Drake, he said there was a sense of urgency created by Monday’s protest that spurred him to act anyway.
“(Today’s event) is not so much a protest but a call on President Drake to take a position on assault weapons on campus,” said Kocher, a doctoral candidate in geography. “We want clarification from the highest office on campus, is that OK for our campus?”
Despite the reservations expressed from the students and faculty gathered on Wednesday, at least one student stopped the armed protesters on Monday to thank them, saying they made him feel more safe, and highlighting the divide that surrounds gun rights and safety.
Drake did recently speak out during a segment on WOSU against House Bill 48, pending legislation in the Ohio Statehouse, which would allow for public colleges to opt in to allow concealed carry on campus. Monday’s open-carry protesters were in favor of the legislation. Kocher said he thought Drake should voice more opposition, as well as opposition to open carrying on campus, even if it is protected by law. Students, by way of the OSU’s Student Code of Conduct, are prohibited from openly carrying, and Monday’s protesters were non-students.
“There’s a number of issues,” Kocher said. “I think, the larger policy point is, the policy on weapons is not clear. Most people are not familiar with it, most people think this is a gun-free zone. If that’s not the case, then our campus needs to clarify what the policy is, and to warn people that it’s legal for people to carry assault rifles.”
Kocher, as well as others, also questioned the university’s response to the protest. Many of the students and faculty gathered wondered why an email wasn’t sent out to students to alert them of protesters walking through campus with firearms, or why there wasn’t a police presence closer to the protesters. Police cars were present, but were often not immediately next to the protesters, and there were no officers on foot.
“Every single rally I’ve been to, even this one, there’s a heavy police presence,” said Madeline Conway, a third-year in art and technology, who brought up the three officers present in Bricker Hall Wednesday afternoon. “And then, literally when there’s a dozen or so people with assault rifles, the cops are a block away.”
Spokesmen for the university and OSU’s Office of Administration and Planning, which oversees the Department of Public Safety, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.