Gun policy puts RA in crosshairs

Graphic by Bill Portoghese| The Oswegonian

Being fired, forced to move and wrung through the judicial system all at the same time would be stressful. Add to that a quickly approaching finals week and that is the situation Anthony Lombardi dealt with this past fall. And all of it over a paintball gun.

Lombardi, a junior adolescent education major and former Onondaga resident assistant, left for Thanksgiving break this past November, with his closet doors closed. He returned to open closet doors, a missing paintball gun and note indicating it had been confiscated and that Lombardi would need to meet with his hall director.

Already on probation for pledging, which first semester RAs are prohibited from doing, Lombardi said the meeting was tense. He was dismissed from his job. Lombardi said the degree of severity was significantly worse due to his Greek affiliation. Jacob Gardner, the Onondaga Hall director, said so explicitly.

“In the conversation that I had with my hall director and assistant head of housing, they said that my pledging really hurt me,” Lombardi said. “They’re saying that it hurt their view of me.”

After the initial meeting with Gardner, Lombardi met him a second time to sign a contract. He was told the contract would help him avoid a trial. The contract required him to take an online course on alcohol safety, resulting from a bottle found in his room. After meeting with University Police, Lombardi was arrested. When the dust settled, Lombardi was no longer an RA or an on-campus resident.

He and his two suitemates were forced to move out. Days before finals he relocated off-campus.

“[My suitemates] had to move out of the room, which I don’t think is fair because they didn’t do anything wrong,” Lombardi said. “And I feel like my grades suffered because of this [incident].”

In addition, Judicial Affairs voided his contract the day after it was issued to complete the online class in lieu of a trial.

But after a meeting with the dean of students, his contract was reinstated. Lombardi says he still does not know if there will be a trial or not.

“I’m kind of like stuck in the middle, I don’t know whats going on really,” Lombardi said.

Gardner refused to comment.

Assistant Dean of Students for Judicial Affairs Lisa Evaneski declined to comment on the specifics of the case. However, she was explicit that, in general, reasons for the weapons policies on most campuses are in place for student safety.

“A lot of recreational and sport weapons can look a lot like deadly weapons and can create a variety of safety issues in our densely packed residence halls,” Evaneski said in an email.

Director of Residence Life and Housing Rick Kolenda said he agrees with the policy for exactly those reasons. The safety of residents and visitors is the main concern and any breach will not be tolerated, Kolenda said.

He said the policy has been in place for many years. Looking to the future, he does not predict much change.

“I cannot see anything in this climate that would relax the weapons policy on campus,” Kolenda said.

Lt. Kevin Velzy of the University Police said the policy has been around for at least as long as he has been with the force, since 1989. He also noted that the campus policy is more inclusive than the New York state law, article 265 of the penal code. Oswego State’s weapons policy has been consistent, he also noted.

Also consistent is the annual appearance of the policy in the student handbook. Velzy stressed the student’s responsibility to read, comprehend and follow the handbook. Especially for those students that own weapons.

“Owning a weapon is even more of a responsibility,” Velzy said. “You should know all the rules and regulations.”

On average there is one arrest per year for violations of the campus weapons policy, Velzy said. He noted that some weapons legal to carry in New York state might not be legal to have on campus. While a paintball gun is rarely fatal, it is hazardous.

“Don’t say that to people who have been shot in the eye and lost the eye,” Velzy said. “They can be dangerous.”

For students who live on campus and need access to weapons (like hunters or martial artists), the campus is required to provide storage. The storage is free and weapons are redeemable 24 hours a day, but the system is something UP keeps close to the vest.

“Every campus has to provide that but we don’t advertise that,” Velzy said. “We don’t want people to bring weapons to campus.”

Velzy said he did not know if there is a paintball club on campus, but he knew that no paintball guns are being currently stored with UP. There is, in fact, a paintball club and Lombardi is a member. Lombardi stored his paintball gun in his room and said that other members regularly do the same.

The locker’s contents come and go throughout the year. During the fall the number of guns averages five or six because of deer season. Currently the weapons room holds only one student’s weapon, an air pistol. With the student population at approximately 7,000 and UP doing nothing to advertise on-campus storage, what are the chances that just one student brought just one weapon to campus? It is a question raised by Velzy, and one he admits he cannot answer.