Marywood remains a weapons-free campus


Bill Loughney, Staff Writer

LCCC implements use of force policy on campus. Marywood says arming its officers not warranted.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy in December, educational institutions at all levels are reviewing the effectiveness of their safety policies. Some are ramping up their safety measures by allowing security guards to carry guns.Luzerne County Community College (LCCC), located just 29.8 miles south of Marywood in Nanticoke, had been preparing to arm its guards for over a year when the tragedy at Sandy Hook shook the nation. Shortly thereafter, its Board of Trustees voted unanimously to implement a use of force policy and amend its weapons exemption policy, which would allow security officers to carry and use firearms while on duty.

Bill Barrett, director of security at LCCC, said that while the new policy is technically already in effect, his office will be implementing it fully in the next 90 days.

The college administration is advising its officers to undergo the certification process commissioned by the Pennsylvania State Police known as the Lethal Weapons Training Program (ACT 235) in order to carry and use a firearm on campus. Barrett said that eventually, the ACT 235 training will be a requirement for employment in the department of security at LCCC.

In order to be certified under ACT 235, an individual must undergo psychological testing, background checks, and 40 hours of firearms training.

“It’s all about allowing people to have the tools to respond to a situation,” Barrett said. “[Our officers] need the tools to act accordingly before the police arrive because seconds count.”

At Marywood, plans to arm guards are “not on the table at all,” said Mike Finegan, director of campus safety. Currently, the university operates with a strict weapons-free campus policy unless the individual is an on-duty police officer for either Scranton or Dunmore, the two municipalities that have jurisdiction over the campus.

“Our biggest problem here at Marywood is criminal mischief,” said David Elliott, senior director of safety and compliance and former Scranton chief of police. “You can check our crime log statistics.” The crime logs, available on the university website, show mostly thefts, vandalism and liquor law violations over the past three years.“[Arming our guards] is just not a feasible idea” stated Elliott. “Cost isn’t the issue; it’s just that it’s not necessary right now.”

At LCCC, Barrett said of arming his officers that he’d rather be safe than sorry in the event an active shooter might one day be on campus. “It’s not a position that I would want to be in, to have to wonder to myself after a tragedy occurs whether this could have been different.”