L.A. Community College District votes to establish gun-free campuses

The Los Angeles Community College District’s nine campuses will be gun-free zones, according to a resolution passed this week by the Board of Trustees that bans weapons in almost all circumstances.

“It is our responsibility to provide a safe environment for our students, allowing them to feel secure and able to totally focus on their academic goals,” said board Vice President Scott Svonkin, who sponsored the resolution. “They must never be fearful about setting foot on one of our campuses.”

The move follows a June shooting rampage at and around Santa Monica College in which five people died.

The suspected gunman, John Zawahri, 23, is believed to have killed his father and older brother at their Yorkshire Avenue home before setting the house on fire. He then carjacked a motorist and forced her at gunpoint to drive him to Santa Monica College, along the way firing at several vehicles and killing a campus groundskeeper and his daughter.

After entering the campus, Zawahri shot and killed another woman before he was fatally wounded by police in the school library.

The shooting renewed debate that had begun after the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech University over whether to allow guns on college campuses.

Twenty-two states ban the carrying of a concealed weapon on a college campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Many other states allow colleges and universities to make individual decisions.

In 2013, at least 19 states introduced legislation to allow concealed carrying in some instances, while a handful of others have attempted to bar weapons, according to the legislative group.

The California penal code prohibits possession of a firearm on campus except with the written permission of the college president.

In a review of its security procedures, the Los Angeles Community College District found that there were no standards for authorizing weapons. Officials also learned that non-credit gun safety classes were being taught on the Pierce and Harbor campuses by a group affiliated with National Rifle Assn. Svonkin said the extension classes were also promoting gun ownership.

Most academic classes offering firearms education and training were already are being taught at off-campus sites, Svonkin said.

The policy adopted at the board's meeting Wednesday would allow weapons on campus only if carried by a sworn law enforcement officer or for use in a theatrical performance.

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carla.rivera@latimes.com