In the wake of the Tucson shootings, the national debate over gun control has reignited and the question of whether firearms ought to be allowed on college campuses, a question that first gained national attention in 2007 following the tragedy at Virginia Tech, holds renewed interest and significance.

While many states have enacted laws banning guns on college and university campuses, Maine's relatively liberal gun laws—there are no waiting periods and permits are only required for concealed weapons—leave much of the gun policy up to individual institutions.

"Bowdoin has always regulated weapons on campus," said Director of Safety and Security Randy Nichols. "I'm guessing that the current policy has been in place for 20 years or more, and who knows how long before that."

The crux of the College's gun policy is that students may bring firearms to Bowdoin, but they must keep them in a secure storage locker located in the basement of the Office of Safety and Security. Students are able check out weapons prior to use, but must immediately check them back in upon returning to campus.

"We do not want weapons stored in vehicles," said Nichols. "That's prohibited as well, and you cannot have a weapon on campus whether or not you have a concealed weapons permit."

According to Nichols, the College averages five to six weapons in the storage facility at any given time, though he can recall years when there were only one or two. Nichols said that the number varies depending on the year and whether it's hunting season, but it rarely ever climbs higher than 10.

Nichols noted that students "almost always" store the guns for hunting purposes.

"As of today, we have the following weapons in storage: two shotguns, two hunting rifles, and a hunting knife and hatchet set," he added.

Former student and gun owner Bryant Johnson kept three guns on campus during his time at the College, adding that he checked out a weapon, on average, seven to eight times a year. Johnson used his guns exclusively for target practice at a quarry 30 minutes north of the College. He said he and a couple of his friends formed a sort of unofficial shooting club.

"It wasn't the most convenient thing in the world even though I certainly understand that," he said. "There isn't a huge demand for storing or withdrawing firearms at Bowdoin so for what it was, I think what they had set up was probably the best that they could have done."

Johnson said that the longest he ever had to wait to retrieve a gun was a little over 20 minutes.

Security reserves the right to withhold a weapon from any student who appears to be under the influence or in any other way impaired at the time of check out. Johnson attested to the careful scrutiny of Security.

"Supposedly you can retrieve your guns or [ammunition] any time of day, but they took a little longer and seemed a little more suspicious if you didn't quite do it within the business hours," he said.

According to Nichols, the weapons policy regarding guns is pretty clear cut, and most questions regarding the policy are about knives or other weapons.

Hunting knives, knives over four inches in length and any switchblade or knife that opens automatically are all prohibited and must be checked with Security. Pellet guns, BB guns and paintball guns are also covered under the policy. Students have asked questions about fencing swords in the past, but since the swords are used for athletic purposes they need not be checked, according to Security policy.

"You can be dangerous with anything—you can be dangerous with a nail file—and it's more based on the conduct of the student and what the facts and circumstances are surrounding the weapon and its use, so we weigh all that in," said Nichols. "We try to use a lot of good judgment."

Although the weapons policy can be found on the College's website, many students are not even aware that guns can be stored on campus.

"I had no idea there was a gun policy," said Tamira Vajnar '14. "I guess it does make me think about it more, I just didn't know that students could store guns on campus."