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Memorandum April 5, 2018

AU Community
Phil Morse, Assistant Vice President, University Police & Emergency Management; Dan Nichols, Assistant Vice President, Risk, Safety and Transportation Programs
Introduction of New AU Firearms, Weapons and Explosives Policy

 In accordance with recent changes in the laws of the District of Columbia, American University has updated its policy related to firearms, weapons and explosives. The District of Columbia now allows the “concealed carry” of firearms by licensed gun owners. However, that right does not extend to certain places, including “the building and grounds, including any adjacent parking lot of . . .a public or private college or university.” 

This announcement outlines the policy and procedures that AU will use to ensure a safe learning and work environment, while complying with the law and respecting the constitutional rights of university faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as visitors, guests, contractors and vendors.


Except as expressly authorized within the policy, the use, possession or storage of any firearms, explosives or other weapons, (hereafter referred to as “weapons”) is expressly prohibited on the American University campus, grounds, facilities, university-leased or controlled property, at university-sponsored events, while conducting university business anywhere, or in any vehicle, owned, leased or controlled by the university.


  • Some individuals are authorized by law to carry weapons in the performance of their duties. For example, authorized law enforcement officers, military personnel and individuals who are in the business of transporting mail, money, securities or other valuables (such as armed guards that collect or transport cash, checks and other valuables), as well as licensed firearms dealers. This authorization is limited to periods when these individuals are performing their official duties and to the extent that they are legally permitted to possess weapons in the jurisdiction in which the university premises are located.
  • An exception may also be granted for weapons on display as objects of artistic, decorative, historical, or cultural value, provided that such weapons are secured, have been rendered inoperable and prior approval for such display is obtained from the Assistant Vice President of University Police Services and Emergency Management. 
  • An exception may be granted for university-recognized groups, activities or events where a weapon is required as part of the curriculum or activity, including dramatic performances, student clubs, and official military ceremonies.
    • The weapons used must be inert replicas, working weapons rendered inert, or military ceremonial swords carried in conformance with applicable branch of service regulations. The weapons must be stored in a secure location, which has been inspected and approved by the American University Police Department.
    • Prior approval for such use in the curriculum or activity, must be obtained from the Assistant Vice President of University Police Services and Emergency Management must be obtained at least one week before the scheduled activity. 
  • Finally, easily identifiable toys, such as brightly colored or clear water guns, are not prohibited by this policy. Toy replicas designed to resemble real weapons are prohibited.
  • For more information on exceptions and approvals, please refer to the weapons policy.

Implementation Procedures


One of the first changes you will see as we implement this policy is the installation of signs around the campus, especially at our major entrances to campus.

  • The signs are intended to provide notice to all coming on the campus that weapons are prohibited on AU’s private property. 
  • A secondary purpose of these signs is to warn and prohibit trespassers, who will be notified that they are entering private property.

Search and Confiscation

Any weapon carried onto university property in violation of the policy may be confiscated. 

  • To the extent permitted by law and university regulations, AUPD may conduct security searches for weapons.  
  • If an AUPD officer asks you to comply with a weapons search, you should do so. Failure to comply with this policy may result in disciplinary or other remedial action.
  • Many common objects and materials may be used or modified for use as a weapon. In deciding whether such an object or material is covered by the policy, university officials will use reasoned judgment when considering whether it has been modified or altered to make it more effective as a weapon. 


The awareness and support of the community are integral to the effective implementation of this policy.

  • Anyone who observes an unattended weapon or observes an individual in possession of a weapon should report this sighting to the American University Police Department immediately.
  • If you are unsure if someone is authorized to possess the weapon in performance of their duties, err on the side of reporting and the AUPD will confirm that the use is authorized or in violation and take appropriate action.


Any member of the American University community, including but not limited to faculty, staff, students, contractors, vendors, alumni, visitors and guests, who violates the terms of the weapons policy will be subject to the applicable university disciplinary process for that violation. 

  • Disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with relevant disciplinary procedures contained in the relevant handbooks, policies, procedures, practices, or contracts. 
  • Because conduct which violates the policy may also be a crime, the university may refer any violation of this policy to law enforcement officials who may arrest and prosecute the violator.   

To Learn More

The new weapons policy requires us to be aware of the law as it relates to the safety and security of our community, while respecting the Second Amendment rights of all citizens. Resources are available to help you become more educated about the policy and related local and federal laws.