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Student wrongfully suspected of on-campus gun possession

Ben Blizzard, freshman and weapon's advocate, was overheard and misunderstood when he asked the question, "Wouldn't you rather have a gun on campus and get expelled than die by a tragic shooting?" Campus police were informed and proceeded to searched his room.

Campus police searched freshman Ben Blizzard’s dorm earlier this month after being mistakenly suspected for carrying a gun. He has since been cleared after several days of investigation.

Blizzard was confronted by Jesse Brown, associate dean of student development, and Barry Cochran, director of campus police, Oct. 7 after it was brought to their attention by a concerned student that he might have a gun on campus.

“I told them the truth and told them everything I know,” Blizzard said.

No gun was found. However, a folding camping saw was found and confiscated during the search. The saw had been previously allowed by his Baker Hall RA. However, as a security precaution, it was removed by Brown so as not to intimidate an unknowing student.

Brown did not comment on the matter.

“In order to respect confidentiality with all students, I am not at liberty to acknowledge or comment on student interactions,” Brown said. “I trust that you can see my position and appreciate the need for confidentiality in my role.”

Brown maintained his position after a second request to interview although Blizzard waived his right to privacy.

Cochran did not respond to the request to interview.

Blizzard said he believes the confusion might have occurred after being overheard in a private conversation on the Oregon shooting with some friends.

“We started sharing our thoughts on gun control and what if there was a school shooting here,” he said. “I started off saying I do hold the school’s policy – I don’t have a gun on campus. But the truth is, if it came down to it, wouldn’t you rather have a gun on campus and get expelled then die by a tragic shooting?”

Even with the disclaimer that he honors the university’s gun-free-zone policy, he said he understands why an eavesdropper might be alarmed.

“I don’t hold it against them for bringing it up,” Blizzard said. “This was just right after a tragic shooting in Oregon. They’re probably just concerned, and I don’t want them to fear over this.”

Blizzard owns several legally-obtained guns back home in Missouri and is licensed to carry. He also works at a local gun shop in downtown Huntington.

“It’s something I enjoy, something I would like to pursue a career in,” Blizzard said of his part-time job. “I have nothing to hide and nothing to fear, so I let them know [working at the gun shop] would be the only time I had access to guns, and it would be strictly off campus.”

Blizzard said he understands the sensitivity of the entire situation and assured he would never bring a weapon on campus.

“Although I hold to the belief that I would rather be expelled than be dead, I really wouldn’t like either option,” he said.

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