EWU Police eliminate gun storage at Red Barn

Lack of funding, space contribute to no more gun checks


Photo by Laura Lango

The Red Barn located on Washington Street, house the EWU Police Department.

By Alex Miller, Staff Writer

The Eastern Washington University police station, commonly known as the Red Barn, will not offer students the service of checking in their guns for storage anymore, according to EWU Director of Public Safety Chief of Police Tim Walters.

Walters said the decision was in the university’s best interest.

“Because of some issues that have come up: the facility, the legality, or the risk of that, we decided it was in the university’s best interest to not provide that service anymore,” he said.

As the university’s population grew, so did the demand for the service, Walters said.

EWU Deputy Chief Gary Gasseling said years ago, when the university had a population of about 4,000, it was fairly easy to run the gun check-ins because there were only a couple of guns in storage at one time.

“Now we’re getting up to 20 guns, and we’re not a gun shop at this point in time,” said Gasseling.

Walters said another issue was under-staffing. “When people wanted to come in and get their weapons, and typically hunters like to come in before the break of dawn, I’ve got one officer on graveyard shift, and I didn’t have the availability to get their guns out the front door,” said Walters. “That service was not too standard in our view.”

Potential criminal activity with a weapon that is given back to a student was a contributing factor as well.

According to Walters, weapons that could be checked out and used in a crime is problematic for the police department and the university. “If a student checks in a weapon and then we check it back out to them, and for some reason that’s used in a crime, then that causes a problem for us,” said Walters.

The University of Montana offers a similar gun check-in service. Their policy “requires all firearms (rifles, handguns, shotguns of any type or caliber including BB guns and large knives) to be stored in authorized storage areas.

In Washington, CWU, WSU and UW store university-owned guns to defend classes that travel in dangerous areas of the wild. “The only [guns] they store are ones for their biology classes [because] they go out in the wild so they have weapons because of bears and things like that,” said Gasseling.

Gasseling said before it was in the university’s best interest not to store the guns anymore to make better use of the space, such as for evidence and storage of the police weapons.

“They’re not arbitrary decisions,” said Gasseling. “We understand the impact to the university itself, to the students and the overall effect was that it [gun check-ins] affected the university more than it did the individual students.”

Although the cost-benefit comparison played a large part, a main concern for Walters was safety. “We want to make sure that we create the safest environment for everybody here,” said Walters.