No-foam zone: Uni­ver­sity ex­pands gun ban to Nerfs

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARDSON

DEN­VER | It was a rough week for gun rights in Colorado.

First, Colorado State Uni­ver­sity voted to ban con­cealed firearms on cam­pus.

Then the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado went a few steps fur­ther and cracked down on an­other ne­far­i­ous threat: Nerf guns.

Plans for a stu­dent-led game of hu­mans vs. zom­bies took a hit af­ter cam­pus se­cu­rity of­fi­cials dis­cov­ered that play­ers in­tended to use the pop­u­lar or­ange-and­green toy weaponry. Sim­u­lated guns, even those that shoot spongy Nerf balls, are banned at the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado.

The game, a na­tional craze on col­lege cam­puses, in­volves “zom­bie” stu­dents at­tempt­ing to elim­i­nate “hu­man” stu­dents by pelt­ing them with Nerf balls or socks. Once a “hu­man” has been tagged, he be­comes a zom­bie and must wear a ban­dana around his head.

Hu­mans can stun zom­bies for 15 min­utes by tag­ging them with a Nerf ball or sock. Zom­bies must hit at least one hu­man ev­ery 48 hours or “starve.” The game ends when all the hu­mans have been turned into zom­bies or all the zom­bies have starved, which can take days.

CU spokesman Bron­son Hil­liard said stu­dents co­op­er­ated fully, re­plac­ing the Nerf guns with balled-up socks and even tak­ing it upon them­selves to hang fliers in dor­mi­to­ries warn­ing play­ers to leave their Nerfs at home. The game started Dec. 1 and ended a cou­ple of days later.

Still, it didn’t take long for cries of “lib­eral killjoys” to ring out across the In­ter­net. The con­trast was es­pe­cially stark given the head­lines that week at Colorado State Uni­ver­sity, thought to be the last col­lege out­side Utah that al­lowed stu­dents to carry con­cealed weapons on cam­pus with a per­mit.

The CSU Board of Gov­er­nors voted unan­i­mously Dec. 4 to ban con­cealed weapons over the ob­jec­tions of stu­dents. Pres­i­dents of the Colorado State sys­tem have un­til Fe­bru­ary to sub­mit a weapons plan that com­plies with the new pol­icy.

At CU, the ban on Nerf guns isn’t new. Uni­ver­sity of­fi­cials pointed out that the Board of Re­gents banned sim­u­lated weapons from cam­pus years ago, rather than just in time to suck the fun out of the Dec. 1 game.

“No guns of any kind, real or toy, from air ri­fles to paint­ball guns to Nerf guns, are al­lowed on cam­pus un­der the laws of the re­gents,” said a state­ment is­sued by Joe E. Roy, chief of po­lice at the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado Po­lice Depart­ment. “We are sim­ply en­forc­ing a long­stand­ing pol­icy, not in­vent­ing a new cat­e­gory of en­force­ment.”

The de­bate over Nerf guns isn’t lim­ited to Boul­der. Since Hu­mans vs. Zom­bies first be­gan at Goucher Col­lege in Tow­son, Md., in 2005, colleges have wres­tled with whether to al­low stu­dents to pack Nerf heat. Op­posi- tion in­ten­si­fied af­ter the deadly 2007 shoot­ings at Vir­ginia Tech.

Chief Roy noted that Nerf guns can look real to passers-by at a dis­tance. Two years ago, Al­fred Uni­ver­sity in up­state New York went on a two-hour lock­down af­ter a fac­ulty mem­ber re­ported a stu­dent car­ry­ing a weapon that turned out to be a Nerf gun.

That’s even more likely now that some Nerf heat-pack­ers are paint­ing their plas­tic weapons to look like the real thing. Mr. Hil­liard pointed to a Web site that ad­vo­cates paint­ing Nerf guns black in or­der to achieve that au­then­tic look.

“We love Nerf guns as much as the next adult ado­les­cent male. But there comes a day in all of our lives when we re­al­ize that you can’t scare the hell out of any­one with a bright or­ange and pink pis­tol shoot­ing foam darts,” says the Giz­modo Web site un­der the head­ing “Re­al­is­tic Nerf Weaponry Com­bines Laser Sights with the Color of Death.”

At Bowl­ing Green State Uni­ver­sity in Ohio, ad­min­is­tra­tors banned the use of Nerf guns for a se­mes­ter, but then met with stu­dent or­ga­niz­ers and drew up a list of guide­lines, such as keep­ing the game out­side of school build­ings. Stu­dents also agreed to re­fer to the weapons as Nerf “blasters,” not guns.

The next se­mes­ter, the Nerf ban was lifted, said Lan­don King, a ju­nior and past pres­i­dent of the BG Un­dead, which or­ga­nizes the games.

“We haven’t had any is­sues, other than peo­ple com­ing up and ask­ing, ‘What’s that?’ “ said Mr. King, who added that the group al­ways co­or­di­nates its games with cam­pus po­lice. “My only ad­vice for the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado would be to work with the uni­ver­sity, lis­ten to their con­cerns, and meet them half­way.”

In the mean­time, Colorado zom­bies were con­tent to ad­here to the no-Nerf pol­icy, es­pe­cially af­ter learn­ing that they could be charged with vi­o­la­tions of the stu­dent-con­duct pol­icy or even ar­rested on charges of un­law­ful con­duct.

“We told them that the vi­o­la­tion of the weapons pol­icy is a se­ri­ous thing,” said Mr. Hil­liard. “If a third party hap­pened upon this and called 911, we’d have to re­spond as if it were a real in­ci­dent.”

That was enough to con­vince stu­dents like ju­nior Trevor Doner.

“It’s not worth it,” Mr. Doner told the Colorado Daily. “I’m just go­ing to shed my dig­nity and bring a balled-up sock to chem­istry class.”


Head “zom­bie” Sean Tad­jeran (left) and un­der­ling Scott Ser­afin lead the pop­u­lar col­lege game hu­mans vs. zom­bies at the Uni­ver­sity of Colorado. The school has banned the Nerf guns that the play­ers use, in­ten­si­fy­ing op­po­si­tion to a re­cent gun ban on Colorado cam­puses.

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