Crime reports shed light on gun policy, no charges for weapons law violations

Over the span of 34 days, from Jan. 6 to Feb. 9, FMU police cited two incidents of weapons law violations in their incident reports, yet neither of the incidents cited any charges for the weapons found.  

For 2022, 13.3% of all incident reports at FMU were weapon law violations. One of the two reports involved a former FMU employee, and the second involved a student.  

The first report on Jan. 6 involved a former temporary FMU employee with an unsecured pistol underneath the seat of a vehicle and a substance consistent with marijuana. The former employee called the police to unlock his car, after which they found the two objects resulting in the incident report. According to lieutenant Christopher Moore, the responding officer, the employee did not have a CWP.  

Both the firearm and the substance were confiscated, which adheres to campus police policy. Afterward, Moore called the employee’s supervisor and informed him of the incident. The supervisor told Moore to inform the employee that he would not be allowed back to campus.  

“I informed [the employee] he was not coming back to work. I was seizing the pistol and the substance consistent with marijuana; however, I was not going to charge him criminally,” 

Moore wrote in incident report 2022-0001. “I informed [the employee] I wanted him to work and be successful. I informed [the employee] a felony was not going to help him.”  

The second report on Feb. 9 involved a student with an unsecured shotgun in the backseat of a vehicle and a substance consistent with marijuana. An anonymous report to the police said they saw a puppy neglected in the vehicle. According to the report, when the police checked inside, they saw the puppy clearly in a kennel in the backseat and a large bag of a substance consistent with marijuana on the passenger floorboard. One of the officers, lieutenant corporal Daniel Carmichael, tracked down the student while the other officer, Jonathan Richey, stayed with the vehicle. The student claimed he had nowhere else to keep the dog but had no excuses for the drugs. Richey asked the student to open the car door.  

“[The student] opened the car door which revealed a shotgun between the seat and the door,” Richey wrote in incident report 2022-0007. “It was at this time that I detained [the student], placing him in handcuffs.”  

Additional search of the car revealed another bag of a substance consistent with marijuana in the glovebox and shotgun ammunition.  

“[The student] was placed in the back of Carmichael’s vehicle so he could keep warm,” Richey wrote in incident report 2022-0007. “I began writing a ticket for Simple Possession of Marijuana.”  

Once the ticket was issued, the student was released and informed of a future court date for the drug charge. The student was charged criminally for the drugs, but there was no report of a criminal charge for the firearm. The substance consistent with marijuana, the shotgun and the ammunition were confiscated and placed into a secure locker. The marijuana had a weight of 70 grams.  

Both incident reports involved drug and weapon possession violations, but only one criminal charge for drugs resulted.  

Chief of campus police, Donald Tarbell, said 95% of the charges they administer are met with a pre-trial diversion where it is pled down, pled to a lesser charge or the school steps in with a rehab program to allow the student to learn from their mistakes.  

FMU forbids any possession or use of firearms by students on school property, regardless of any special permits, as supported by state law and the student handbook.  

As dictated in the 2020 South Carolina Code of Laws, section 16-23-420 states guns are not allowed on any school campus in the state.  

According to Section 16-23-420 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, “It is unlawful for a person to possess a firearm of any kind on any premises or property owned, operated or controlled by a private or public school, college, university, technical college, other post-secondary institution or in any publicly owned building, without the express permission of the authorities in charge of the premises or property.”  

There is an addendum exempting people who are authorized to carry concealed weapons, which can be found in subsection F of Code 16-23-420. Information about the qualifications granting authorization for concealed weapons can be found in Article 4, Chapter 31 of Title 23 in the South Carolina Code of Laws. 

As stated in the FMU Student Handbook, “Firearms and dangerous weapons of any type are not permitted in campus housing facilities, while on University-owned or -controlled property, University-sponsored or -supervised activities or other University facilities, except when carried by law enforcement officers within their jurisdiction.”  

With this specified section in the handbook, no student, faculty or staff, regardless of permit, may possess a weapon on school property.  

“Possession of these prohibited items can result in removal from campus housing and/or suspension from the University,” according to the Student Handbook.  

Vice president of communications, John Sweeney, was able to explain some aspects of the decision-making process for disciplinary action.  

“The key is to focus on the individual factors pertaining to each case as it comes before the Dean of Students,” Sweeney said. “No two cases are the same, and so it all depends on the factors involved. With the outcome, we want to keep the wellbeing of the student and the safety of the campus community at the center focus of what happens.” 

According to Sweeney, each case of a student violation of the handbook is immediately referred to the Dean of Students, Latasha Brand, and Student Life for their specific processes.  

“Any policy violation that can still be a violation of state or federal law can still come to our office because they’re two different entities,” Brand said. “We’re looking at our educational policies and if they’re responsible. It’s not a matter of guilty or not guilty—that’s the criminal system. We’re looking at are you responsible for this behavior, and if you are, because it is still learning, it is a matter of helping a student learn from a particular behavior or mistake.” 

The university implements the handbook and the police department to help keep firearms only in the possession of authorized individuals. Tarbell noted the prominence of the dangers of weapons on school property. 

“It’s 2022, and you don’t have to look very hard in the news to see something about a school shooting,” Tarbell said. “Days are gone of having guns on campus.”  

Since Jan. 1, 2020, there have been 62 recorded school shootings in the U.S., and 12 of them occurred in 2022. Of the 62 shootings, there were 32 casualties, and 85 students were injured.  

Though not all school shootings were perpetrated by students at the school, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found 49% of the perpetrators were students or former students at the schools they targeted.  

The deadliest school shooting in history occurred at Virginia Tech University in 2007, where a 23-year-old student killed 32 students and faculty members, injuring 17 others. More recently, in 2015, a 26-year-old student killed eight students and one teacher at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.  

The incidences of deadly shootings on college campuses continue in the present. On Feb. 3, 2020, a 21-year-old man killed two residents of Texas A&M University-Commerce. There have already been two incidents of shots being fired on college campuses in 2022.  

“Guns and school do not mix, and FMU knows that,” Tarbell said. “Guns are a tool police are equipped with solely to do our job and keep students safe.”  

Tarbell encourages students to reach out to the campus police department for any safety concerns. If students feel the need to possess a weapon for their own safety, Tarbell said the department may be able to address the concerns and implement a plan to mitigate the potential threats. 

“Let me worry about your security,” Tarbell said.  

If students have any safety concerns or questions about firearms on campus, they may contact the FMU Campus Police at 843-661-1109. For more information, the FMU website outlines all aspects of the department and can be found at