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Nerf gun controversy at Missouri State University

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Posted: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 8:46 pm, Mon Jan 13, 2014.

Missouri State University’s latest Humans vs. Zombies game had more participants than ever — and more controversy.

Most of the concerns come from the game’s use of Nerf guns, which the “humans” use to momentarily dispatch the “zombies.”

The Live Action Society, who puts on Humans vs. Zombies, among other events, maintains that safety is one of its highest priorities.

MSU’s director of Safety and Transportation, Donald Clark, addressed the matter before SGA’s Nov. 19 meeting.

About 15-20 complaints related to the game were lodged with Safety and Transportation, Clark said.

It wasn’t the volume of the complaints, Clark said — it was the nature.

Several people were unaware that a game was being played, and, according to Clark, one teacher called 911 and locked down the class, believing one of the game’s participants to be a shooter on campus.

Clark’s personal concerns focused mostly on police and the actions they might have to take in a situation where the gun could not be identified as one that fired harmless foam darts.

If police saw someone with something that resembled a weapon and police believed there was a threat to them, they would have to take down the supposed assailant, Clark said.

Furthermore, Clark said that police couldn’t respond to a call of a shooter on campus with a “mild” approach just because it was during the game. They must assume that it is a real shooter with a real gun and respond in that manner.

Clark did say that there would “never be a decision without student input,” and that nothing he was saying meant that the school was moving to ban the game.

Clark’s speech came in the wake of the Nov. 12 SGA meeting, during which Live Action Society faculty adviser Chad Holmes and SGA member and Humans vs. Zombies participant Shannon Reid spoke about the safety measures that the game takes.

Holmes’s and Reid’s presentation was extended twice by vote, leading to almost 30 minutes of questions and concerns voiced by SGA members.

In an interview with Holmes and Reid, both expressed an understanding for people’s concerns, but said that Humans vs. Zombies has never resulted in a shooting, and that a lot of “what-if scenarios” are being used as arguments.

Holmes and Reid both said they would love for more people to be aware that the game was being played — both for safety and marketing purposes — but that Clark has not responded to their requests to speak with him.

Even without university help, however, strict safety rules are in place. Nerf guns may not be modified in anyway that would make them dangerous, or that could cause them to appear to be a real weapon, and breaking this rule could result in expulsion from the game.

In addition, there are moderators chosen to oversee the game who can address any safety issues that might arise — both Holmes and Reid said there had never been any issues.

While rumors of a ban have been floating around since the complaints started, both SGA and Clark have said they are not currently looking into banning the game or Nerf guns.

But it’s not an impossibility. The University of Colorado does not allow the use of Nerf guns on campus while the game is being played, and students must instead use balled-up socks.

The MSU game allows for socks too, but Holmes and Reid said that it just isn’t the same. Many people playing the game are there primarily because of the opportunity to shoot Nerf guns.

And some aren’t just there for Humans vs. Zombies — almost every activity that the Live Action Society puts on involves Nerf guns.

Reid was blunt about the effects that a ban would have on the organization.

“If Nerf guns are banned, Live Action Society will disband.”

With the spring semester’s game fast approaching, the conversation over Humans vs. Zombies is sure to continue — and it won’t be getting any smaller. Holmes said he hopes for 1,000 players this year and thinks it’s possible with word of mouth and advertising.

More than anything, however, they want to keep their Nerf guns. Live Action Society intends for college students to be shooting them, but one of Reid’s arguments against a ban, which she repeated several times, was just the opposite.

“They are toys for children, ages 7 to 11.”

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1 comment:

  • lollipopguild posted at 12:57 pm on Tue, Dec 3, 2013.

    lollipopguild Posts: 1

    Look out! We have suspects holding bright blue and orange plastic full-automatic 50 cal. rifles! Waiting for the order to take them out.