A day before the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy board of trustees voted Friday to arm campus police by fall 2015.
The decision, reached during a closed-door session, capped a debate that began in the wake of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute before picking up renewed urgency after the 2012 shootings in Newtown, Conn. In recent surveys, a narrow majority of students and staff opposed the proposal, said Adm. Richard Gurnon, the school's president, who said he himself felt the risks of a gun mishap outweighed the potential benefits of arming campus police.
But with its vote, the board ultimately decided the scale had tipped in favor of arming the force with more than a baton, pepper spray and handcuffs. The vote will make the maritime academy the eighth school in the nine-campus state university system to equip its police with firearms, leaving only the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston without an armed force.
The state university system falls under the state Department of Higher Education but is separate from the University of Massachusetts and community college systems.