Gun law draws mixed responses

College campuses across the state have been granted the option of becoming gun friendly.

Earlier this year, a law was passed allowing teachers to carry concealed handguns on college campuses across the state of Tennessee with certain restrictions.

In Tennessee, SB 2376 will allow full-time faculty and staff of Tennessee’s public colleges and universities to carry guns on campus.

Tennessee’s handgun-carry permit law allows open and concealed carry, the bill requires campus employees with permits to carry their guns concealed, even though Tennessee’s handgun-carry permit law allows open and concealed carry. The bill prohibits the employees from carrying their guns in arenas and stadiums when during public events such as football and basketball games. In addition, they cannot carry guns in meetings in which their job performance or tenure is discussed.

“The legislation was also amended to place liability on the permit holder rather than the university in the event of an accidental discharge,” according to The Tennessean.

The law authorizes, but does not require, training sessions for employees who decide to carry guns on campus. Police at UT Knoxville already have scheduled a series of optional training sessions, but similar offerings would be all but impossible at most community and technical college campuses.

Beth Joslin Roth, policy director of Safe Tennessee Project said, “According to campus police chiefs, not only will this new law make campuses less safe, it will also require them to scrap their FBI training protocol when it comes to responding to an active shooter situation. Additionally, numerous faculty members have indicated they will resign over this. But, in our state, the gun lobby is more influential than law enforcement and the wishes of the NRA trump the concerns of our public colleges and universities.”

Tennessee State Representative Andy Holt, who sponsored the law in the House, has indicated he is ready to push further against the remaining restrictions on guns on campus. He told The Tennessean earlier this year that he believes the “important next step” is to allow students to go armed on campus as well.

“It’s not my intention to do so immediately,” said Holt. “But if someone else did, I’d support it. These are adults. We need to stop talking about college students as children. They have the same constitutional rights as others. I think that’s an important next step.”

Several UTM students, faculty and staff have voiced their opinions about the new law, pointing out its pros and cons. Several students and faculty stated that the psychological level of the person should be factored in, whether it be a teacher or student packing.

Senior Allie Craft is completely in favor of the bill, saying that she supports students and teachers with firearms on campus provided they are licensed by the state.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Craft. “Violence has increased so I encourage it. I would feel more safe.”

Senior Brittney Simmons takes the opposite view, disagreeing with the new law.

“I’m not really for it,” said Simmons. “I’m not for guns at all because of the crime going on today in general. Anything can happen. I am totally against having them on campus.”

Faculty members have weighed in on the matter as well. UTM professor Dr. Daniel Pigg said that the movement is unnecessary and potentially problematic.

“It’s not clear to me why the additional gun power is needed on campus,” said Dr. Pigg. “It puts a faculty member in a potentially compromising situation should he or she use a weapon in the classroom and the police show up and they can’t tell who the bad guy is. …I think [this law] compromises and puts greater strains on our police department for there to be additional weapons on campus.

“I think the question would be what happens when it extends to students, and how will students feel about that? How will students feel, since we’re the safest campus in the state of Tennessee, that we have that classification before any guns were here except those legally held by the police?”

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