A majority of students, faculty and staff on campus are comfortable with sworn Department of Public Safety officers having access to rifles during an emergency, according to a survey conducted by the Daily Princetonian.
The survey respondents do not necessarily feel safer now than before knowing that the officers will be able to access these rifles, though.
DPS Executive Director Paul Ominsky announced on Monday at the Council of the Princeton University Community meeting that sworn DPS officers will soon have access to rifles in case of campus emergencies involving active shooters or armed suspects.
The survey received a total of 641 responses from graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and staff. Approximately 95.8 percent of respondents were undergraduate students.
The survey was circulated through various student listservs between 11:20 a.m. and 9:50 p.m. on Tuesday. The survey contained three multiple-choice questions and one scale question about how members of the University community feel about the policy change. The answers were collected anonymously.
Nearly 62 percent of the total respondents said they were comfortable with officers having emergency access to guns, while 57.3 percent said they did not necessarily feel safer than before.
“I don’t really think there will be much of a change, but I don’t think it’s doing anything negative for the safety of the school,” Ki Won Ahn '16 said.
She added that though the idea of anyone carrying a rifle is somewhat alarming to her, she does feel safer because DPS officers will have access to guns in the case that an emergency warranting gun use does arise. Ahn noted, though, that since Princeton’s suburban atmosphere is not as potentially threatening as many urban college campuses, she does not anticipate much visible change due to the new policy.
When asked to rate how safe they felt knowing that that the officers would now have emergency gun access on a scale of one, or "very unsafe," to five, or "very safe," the majority of students responded that they feel safe.
The most popular rating was a five, with 27 percent of the respondents reporting that they feel very safe. The next highest was a three with 25.9 percent, then a four with 21.7 percent.
Only 25.4 percent of students responded that they feel unsafe or very unsafe about the policy change, with 17 percent of students choosing a two and 8.4 percent choosing a one, or "very unsafe."
Jenny Peng ’17 noted that people’s concern over DPS officers’ access to rifles likely stems from the issue that the rifles may be too easy to access.
“I really don’t see it as a problem, as long as they actually use them for emergencies when they’re supposed to,” Peng said.
Peng explained that she doesn’t necessarily feel safer now that DPS officers have access to guns in cases of emergency, since she herself has not encountered an emergency situation on campus yet in which gun use was necessary.
“If it does happen, I guess it’s good to be prepared,” Peng noted.
The announcement followed a series of violent shootings on college campuses, including at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Ariz. and Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore.
The Fraternal Orders of Police, the labor union representing DPS officers, had previously asked in 2008 that sworn officers be allowed to bear guns on campus in the event of an active shooter situation.
University President Emerita Shirley Tilghman said in 2013 that guns had no place in a community like the University.
"Police can rapidly have the appropriate response without having our own police officers armed," Tilghman said in an interview with the 'Prince' at the time.
Associate News Editor Do-Hyeong Myeong contributed to reporting.