Tennessee legislation proposes to allow full-time employees carry handguns on campus

Legislation moving through the Tennessee General Assembly would allow employees of universities to carry loaded guns on campus if passed.

The bills, SB 2376 and HB 1736, proposes an amendment to the current law to allow “full-time employees of public higher education institutions who have a handgun permit to carry a handgun on property owned, operated, or in use by the institution employing the employee.”

People across the state are divided about the bills and students and employees at Tech are no exception.

Tech’s administration’s safety instructions for the most recent threat on campus were to stay inside and lock all doors. Some students say they would like more protection than a lock and key.

“I would like to think that there is more than just a door keeping me safe from a deadly threat, whether that be a teacher, employee or even a student with a firearm,” said senior business management major Lucas Clements.

Senior sociology major Tylor Luellen said he also thinks that this legislation will make Tech’s campus safer.

“I believe that if students that have a handgun carry permit aren’t allowed to then it would provide some comfort and further protection to students,” said Luellen. “The campus police are only allowed to do so much and are only able to respond after something happens, which could take a bit of time, and in a crisis time can mean a lot as to saving lives.”

University employees would not be required to carry, but would be given the option. They would register with the campus police, though the list would not be public, so as to not make those individuals potential targets.

Conversely, some employees are worried about the implications for Tech if this bill passes. According to Tech sociology and political science professor Ada Haynes, college campuses are safe as they are; more weapons would increase on-campus risks.

“Research shows that college campuses are some of the safest places in the United States. Many attribute the drastically lower homicide rate on campuses to no guns on campus policies,” said Haynes.

In addition to making campuses less safe, Haynes says she fears that this is only the beginning of new legislation.

“I do not feel that the NRA (National Rifle Association) would stop with this measure to just allow employees to carry guns,” said Haynes. “The next step would be for students to also carry guns. High stress, high alcohol, controversial ideas and guns make a volatile combination.”

Haynes is not alone in her reservations about these bills. A 2013 study conducted by the University of Toledo found that 94 percent of faculty from 15 colleges opposed concealed weapons on campus.

The bills originated from the NRA and the American Executive Legislative Exchange Council. The House Education Administration and Planning Committee passed bill 1736 in April, and the Senate Judiciary Committee passed bill 2376 with a majority 7-2 vote March 29. The Finance, Ways and Means Committee will see the bill next.