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Nerf Guns on Campus: Too Close to the Real Thing?

Nearly 500 students recently armed themselves with toy guns on the Missouri State University campus for the live action role play game, Humans Verses Zombies.
Humans Verse Zombie Comeption in Action
Humans Verse Zombie Comeption in Action/ Photo Credit: Billy Brandon

Nearly 500 students recently armed themselves with toy guns on the Missouri State University campus for the live action role play game, Humans Verses Zombies.  While the event caused most to laugh, it left some students and faculty feeling uncomfortable. KSMU’s Shannon Bowers has more.

Standing on the front line as the zombies attack, foam bullets fly past me as I watch the Humans Verses Zombies game unfurl.   

Put on by the Live Action Society, the centerpiece around this organized activity is a Nerf Gun. LAS Faculty Advisor Chad Holmes has competed in Humans Verses Zombies since it began five years ago.

“We emphasize safety. We always inform campus security and Public Safety that the event is going on well ahead of time. They know if they get people running around with Nerf guns calls about that, it is us,” Holmes said.

While students and MSU alumni who have played this quirky game think it is a safe activity, not everyone feels this way.

“I don’t know that it is necessarily a danger to campus. It is a disruption to campus,” said Clark.

Don Clark is the director of Public Safety at Missouri State University. This year, his office received several phones calls and emails about a possible threat of a gunman on campus. Most of these reports were made at night, while the game was being played; misidentifying the Nerf guns used as real ones.

“We cannot tell people that ‘if you see someone with a gun, it might be a Nerf gun, so just disregard it. It is probably just a game.’ Because then in fact if it was a real gun, we have missed the opportunity to respond and prevent something significant from occurring,” said Clark

If the Springfield Police Department is dispatched to the scene, they must handle all incidences as though it is a threat of a real gun. Even if it looks like a Nerf gun, the officer must be able to physically investigate and identify the gun. This year, there was only one incident where officers were directly called onto campus due to a report of an armed student. That call was linked to the Humans Verses Zombies competition.

According to MSU Student Body Vice President Brittany Donnellen, school administrators had been considering changing the policy regarding Nerf guns on campus. To hear from students, SGA put a poll on their Facebook earlier this week asking students if these toy guns pose a safety risk. The responses poured in.

“It is overwhelming that students don’t feel they pose a safety risk and that even considering banning them is an infringement on students’ ability to enjoy the college experience and express themselves,” said Donnellen.

Participants of the game agree.

“Live Action Society, Humans Verses Zombies is so much fun,” Robert Dean said.

 “They [Nerf bullets] can hit you in the head or in the face and it doesn’t really hurt,” Darin Harrison said.

“You get a sense of comradery. Even though it is a game, you feel like it is an actual zombie apocalypse and you just form a temporary bond with people and sometimes it last long after the game,” said Anthony Beauchamp.

All Nerf guns used during this competition are inspected to make sure there is no resemblance to a real gun, banning colors such as black, white, silver, and army green in order to avoid any concern, confusion or misidentification on or off the campus battlefield.

For KSMU News, I’m Shannon Bowers.