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Lawmakers propose several gun bills

‘Guns on Campus’ bill to hit Senate

Tennessee lawmakers are voting on a bill that would allow university employees to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. Currently, it is illegal to bring a gun onto the University of Memphis campus.

The Tennessee legislature is discussing a slew of gun bills that could expand where a person can carry a gun and who can carry one.

The legislature already shot down one bill that would have punished Tennesseans for leaving a loaded gun in a place accessible to children.

On a 7-2 party-line vote, the House Civil Justice Committee voted down a bill named MaKayla’s Law, named after an eight-year-old girl from Jefferson County who was fatally shot by an 11-year-old boy after she refused to let him play with her puppy.

Rep. Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, who sponsored the bill, said the panel “voted to allow irresponsible gun owners to continue to leave their guns out so children can pick them up.†Stuart Dedmon, Tennessee state director for Students for Concealed Carry and a U of M student, said while MaKayla’s Law had good intentions, unexpected consequences could result from it’s mandate, citing a story about an 11-year-old Michigan girl who used her dad’s shotgun to ward off burglars from her home.

“I believe that children who are taught firearm safety are less curious of firearms and, therefore, are less likely to handle them without adult supervision,†he said.

Other gun bills Tennessee legislators are discussing include one that would allow persons above the age of 21 to carry a handgun without a permit, and one that would “allow carrying a firearm or weapon, openly or concealed, regardless of whether the person has a handgun permit, unless a person is otherwise prohibited by law to possess a firearm or weapon,†the bill said.

These bills would also revise the offense regarding carrying a weapon in any public or private school building and make prohibition of handgun carry applicable only to public K-12 schools and only to those public K-12 structures used for education purposes and would require posting regarding the prohibition.

William McDonald, a U of M student, said he believes “all residents of Tennessee should have the right to lawfully carry a firearm or weapon, openly or concealed,†noting the right should only be denied to those who have a criminal or mental health history and to those who lack the capacity to carry a gun.

“The purpose of the Tennessee carry permit class is to teach and evaluate individuals on their competency of operating a firearm and under what circumstances they are allowed by law to use deadly force in the means of self-defense,†he said.

Last week, The Daily Helmsman reported a bill that would allow fulltime employees of state public colleges or universities to carry a handgun while on property owned, operated or used by the employing college or university if the employee had a valid Tennessee handgun carry permit.

The Student Government Association planned on debating on whether they agreed or disagreed with the proposed bill regarding university officials carrying concealed weapons with a carry permit, but they decided to shelf the debate until after elections.

The concern, if the laws pass legislation, is several students want people who are trained to handle a weapon, like campus police, to be the only ones allowed to carry on campus.

“I understand that people who have carry permits have taken a gun safety course, but they do not have the training that police officers go through to handle a firearm,†Danielle Curland, a U of M student, said.

During a senate meeting at the university in February, U of M chief of police Bruce Harber fielded questions from students about the school’s protocol in the instance of an active shooter.

On Feb. 24, a House subcommittee in the Tennessee legislature approved a bill regarding guns on public college campuses.

“Our officers go through training every year if there is ever an active shooter on campus,†he said during the meeting. “We want any weapon on campus to be in the hands of people who were trained to use them.â€

David Knowles, SGA president, said these bills are a way for students to get involved in the issue and make sure their voices are heard.

“It has always been about the students and the type of campus that they want to see,†Knowles said. “I think that students should use this as a way to fire up their interest in the senators who are representing them on the voting of this bill.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.

There are also 10 states that allow the possession and carry of a firearm without a license or permit (permitless or constitutional carry.) There has also been an increase in both the number of concealed carry licenses and states adopting constitutional carry along with a rapid increase in gun sales, while murder and violent crime rates have dropped.

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