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Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan was speaking out, expressing his concern for the safety of students, faculty and staff on college campuses if a bill being discussed in the legislature to allow guns on public campuses is passed.
Morgan has joined the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police, University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro, and numerous other presidents, faculty, staff and students of Tennessee’s public higher education institutions in opposing the bills.
“I am strongly opposed to these bills, and I am proud to join my colleagues at the University of Tennessee System and the Campus Police Chiefs in that opposition,” Morgan said. “I believe the police officers across our system who are fearful that more firearms on campuses would be problematic. Our campuses are much safer with current laws left in place.”
House Bill 2016 was scheduled to come up Tuesday, April 19, in the House Judiciary Committee. As amended, it would allow all full-time faculty and staff members of public postsecondary institutions with a concealed weapon permit to carry a concealed firearm on campus after completing a two-hour handgun safety training course.
The bill does not pertain to students, part-time employees or adjunct faculty members. The bill provides that if an institution elects to opt out, it will have a duty to guarantee and warrant the health and safety of persons on the campus.
Current law prohibits anyone other than authorized law enforcement officials to bring weapons on campus. Law enforcement officials nationwide have expressed concern that campuses will become less safe with more gun carriers by complicating law enforcement response to potential threats.
“Just because someone is permitted to carry a weapon, we cannot presume the individual’s ability or skill set with that weapon during an alarming situation,” wrote Chief David Beams, TACP president, and Chief August Washington, chairman of the TACP University Committee and chief of the Vanderbilt University Police Department, in a letter to the General Assembly.
A 2009 report by ABC News 20/20 titled “If I Only Had a Gun” supported that point by showing individuals who received extensive firearms training still had trouble responding to an active shooter situation.
Recent campus crime reports indicate Tennessee college campuses are often safer than the communities that surround them. College officials are also concerned about the added liabilities and costs they could face if the laws are changed.
The Tennessee Board of Regents is the nation’s sixth largest higher education system, governing 46 post-secondary educational institutions. The system includes six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 27 technology centers, providing programs in 90 of Tennessee’s 95 counties to more than 200,000 students.