PROVIDENCE — The president of the University of Rhode Island has renewed his call to arm campus police after reports of a gunman at the school prompted a lockdown, and at least two state lawmakers are reviving efforts to authorize it.
President David Dooley said he has long supported arming URI officers and that Thursday’s lockdown would likely prompt discussion of the issue ‘‘with even more intensity.’’
Two Rhode Island lawmakers, Democrat Joseph Almeida of Providence and Republican Doreen Costa of North Kingstown, said Friday they will urge the General Assembly to pass legislation allowing officers to be armed at the state’s public universities. Previous legislative efforts have languished, leaving Rhode Island the only state that prohibits it.
‘‘If you’ve got trained officers already on campus, they would be able to respond,’’ said Almeida, a former police officer and sponsor of a bill that would allow campus police to carry guns. ‘‘I feel for the officers at URI — they had to call the local and state police.’’
State Police continued Friday to learn what happened to prompt the scare. After hundreds of interviews with students, authorities determined only that someone apparently knocked on the door of an auditorium in Chafee Hall and said something that some inside interpreted as ‘‘I have a gun,’’ said Colonel Steven O’Donnell, the State Police superintendent.
State Police listened to audio from inside the lecture hall and heard a voice say, ‘‘I’m a nice guy,’’ but they could not tell if there was a reference to a gun, he said. The comments prompted students to flee and the campus to be locked down.
Authorities never found a gun or a shooter and said there was never any danger.
O’Donnell said authorities are trying to identify the person who was outside the classroom.
The incident has renewed the debate about whether campus officers should be allowed to carry firearms. Eva Mancuso, of the Rhode Island Board of Education, said discussion of the issue will be part of a broader look by the board at safety.
‘‘The issue is you don’t just give people guns — you have to have training,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s one of the many issues that we have to look at when we talk about school safety. The most important factor in my mind is: There is no evidence that the arming or unarming of campus police had anything to do with the incident that happened’’ at URI.