A bill that would give state college and university employees who have Tennessee handgun permits the right to carry a concealed gun on college campuses is heading to a vote in the state Senate.
Members of the House Civil Justice Committee approved the â€œGuns on Campusâ€ bill, SB 2376, with a 7-2 vote Tuesday.
Although a date has not yet been set, the bill will go to the Senate for a full vote next week.
If the Senate approves the proposed bill, Tennessee would become the 10th state to allow concealed carry on campuses.
So far, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Kansas, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Mississippi and, most recently, Texas allow concealed carry on campus, according to the website armedcampuses.org.
Bruce Harber, chief of police at the University of Memphisâ€™ Campus Police Services, said he and his colleagues oppose the bill, believing that, if passed, campuses would not be safe for any individual.
â€œHere at the U of M, we have a multi-hazard emergency response plan; we conduct regular training activities for emergency events and have emergency notification systems for students and staff,â€ Harber said in an email to The Daily Helmsman. â€œAdditionally, we have a well-trained police department and a mutual assistance agreement with MPD (Memphis Police Department). [If the bill passes,] every person and weapon encountered will have to be secured on the way to responding toward a threat. This deviates from the national model that urges police officers to respond as quickly as possible in situations where literally every second is critical.â€
Stuart Dedmon, Tennessee state president of Students for Concealed Carry and a U of M student, disagrees with the police director.
â€œHis intuitions are understandable and not invalid,â€ Dedmon said. â€œHowever, in any serious domain of inquiry, people make decisions based upon the observable facts rather than their gut feelings. The facts are on the side of campus carry advocates. The bill in no way changes who has the lawful right to carry, it only removes the geographical barriers that are currently placed on permit-holding faculty. Several states already allow this, and it has been a non-issue. I expect that it will be the same case in Tennessee.â€
According to a 2015 study conducted by the Crime Prevention Research Center, the number of concealed carry permit holders has risen from 11.1 million in 2014 to over 12.8 million in 2015.
While the number of permit holders has risen, murder and violent crime rates have dropped.
Student government attempted to pass a protest bill against the â€œGuns on Campusâ€ bill, but it failed.
The debate was shelved until next semester.
Nicolas Dâ€™Alto, a U of M student running for student government president, said heâ€™s personally â€œin favor of concealed carry,â€ according to a survey by The Daily Helmsman on SGA candidates.
â€œAlthough I know this is a touchy subject and many people are opposed to this view, I truly believe concealed carry on campus would be good,â€ Dâ€™Alto said. â€œI truly believe that knowing people are carrying a concealed firearm on campus is a deterrent. If [criminals] think they might be shot and killed, they will more than likely not commit that crime. Instead, they will find a safer, alternative target.â€
His rival, Jared Moses of the Refresh Party, did not take a stand on the topic of concealed carry.
â€œStudents have a right to voice their opinion on this,â€ he said.