The Rhode Island Board of Education approved a plan Thursday night to allow the state's three public colleges and universities to arm their campus police forces.
"I was happy with the vote tonight. I think it's a great step by the board of education to authorize the process to go forward," said URI President David Dooley.
Dozens of people, including students, faculty and campus officers themselves packed into the meeting at URI's Ryan Center. The board listened to more than a half our of testimony on both sides of the debate.
"the experiment is over. The results are in. More guns spells more victims, more violence, and more fatalities," said Peter Nightingale.
"The fact that they've been functioning as long as they have without the proper equipment to do the job is disgraceful," said James McMahon, a former URI student and veteran.
The debate comes on the heels of last months campus lock down and gun scare at URI. In that case there was no active shooter, but officials say the incident highlighted some critical safety concerns.
"Our officers are trained to go towards danger. And even in a case like that we know we had officers too close to the building if there had been an actual gunman, so they would have been a target just like anybody else," said Mjr. Stephen Baker of the URI Campus Police Department.
The decision to arm campus officers is now left up to the individual colleges. URI's President, Dooley, has expressed support for arming officers. RIC is considering it. CCRI has no plans of implementing the new policy.
Rhode Island was the last state in the country to allow it's public colleges and universities to arm campus officers.