(CNN) -- Two Gonzaga University students are on probation for the rest of their time at the Washington state school for using a gun to scare a man they say was trying to barge into their apartment, their lawyer said Tuesday.
Having such a firearm on university-owned property violates Gonzaga policy, a fact that led to the possibility that students Erik Fagan and Daniel McIntosh would be suspended or expelled.
That didn't happen. The two were instead placed on probation, according to their lawyer Dean Chuang. Harsher penalties may follow if either is found to have violated university policies in the future.
Fagan and McIntosh think being on probation goes too far because the penalty goes on their permanent record and means they aren't "in good standing" at private, four-year Catholic university in Spokane, Washington. They are appealing the school's decision, said Chuang.
The lawyer also said he's found that Gonzaga does not own the apartment complex where the incident took place; rather, the university has a 99-year lease from the complex's owners and is subleasing units to students.
The penalties stem from an incident the night of October 24, when the two students got a knock on their apartment door.
Fagan told CNN affiliate KXLY in Spokane that he opened the door, and a stranger, who said he'd just gotten out of jail, asked for $15. Fagan told KXLY he offered the man a blanket and a can of food but "didn't feel comfortable" giving the man money because he was a stranger.
"My gut instinct was telling me I wasn't going to be able to get that door closed before he came through," Fagan said.
As the man started coming through the door, Fagan said, he yelled for McIntosh, his roommate.
McIntosh said he came to the door with his pistol drawn, and the students said the man turned and ran away.
Both police and campus security responded when Fagan and McIntosh then called 911.
According to the Gonzaga's Executive Vice President Earl Martin, all university housing is patrolled at regular intervals by campus security. But this particular apartment complex isn't gated, and secured key cards or codes aren't required for entrance.
Shortly after the incident, police captured the man, whom they identified as a six-time convicted felon.
At about 2 a.m. the next day, campus security officers returned to Fagan and McIntosh's apartment and confiscated a pistol and a shotgun from the apartment.
The gun is owned by Fagan, who uses it to hunt periodically, and McIntosh has a state-issued permit to carry a concealed handgun, Chuang said. In Washington state, gun owners are not required to register their weapons.
In a disciplinary board hearing on Friday, the board, made up of three faculty members and two students, found Fagan and McIntosh guilty of two infractions -- possessing weapons on school grounds and putting others in danger by the use of weapons, according to Chuang.
The next day, university President Thayne McCulloh said he believes this incident offers "an opportunity to do some important work, as a community, to objectively re-examine our firearms policy and openly debate perspectives and contextual issues."
Until a change is made, though, the current rules remain in effect.
CNN's Rick Martin and Jackie Castillo contributed to this story