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Faculty and students react to campus gun law

At least 20 full-time University of Memphis employees have applied to carry concealed guns on campus, according to U of M campus police services.

The 17 main campus employees and three from the Lambuth campus, in Jackson, Tennessee, are taking advantage of a state law, which passed in April and went into effect in July. The law allows full-time employees of public universities to carry a concealed gun, provided they have a Tennessee gun carry permit.

The law has received criticism from both students and faculty.

Susan O’Donovan, associate professor of history and former Marine with expert badges in both pistols and rifles, said it takes a long time and lots of training to become proficient in firearms and is unhappy with what she described as “lax requirements” asked of the U of M employees.

“I am horrified by this new law,” she said. “I am not comfortable knowing that any one of my fellow employees might be carrying a concealed weapon. The odds are very good that the person who brings a gun onto campus has no clue how to handle it or use it safely. That makes me very uneasy. I do not relish standing in line at Starbucks or running errands to the library wondering if I am about to become the next victim of ignorance or arrogance.”

O’Donovan said Marines must complete rigorous training before they can carry a gun and are often retested.

“Guns are not toys,” she said. “They are not to be taken lightly. They can do an astonishing amount of damage in the blink of an eye. I know how hard and for how long a person has to train to obtain proficiency with firearms.”

U of M senior Charles Uffelman, 22, thinks rigorous courses should be required.

“I’m not necessarily against teachers having guns on campus,” the political science major said. “But there should be extensive training, and I don’t think it should be optional. It should last several weeks, possibly months.”

Uffelman said he isn’t against gun ownership. Raised on a farm in middle Tennessee, he grew up shooting guns and hunting. When he lived in a house near campus, he kept a pistol under his bed.

But he also understands the importance of firearm safety. He doesn’t think campus employees should have guns unless they are experienced,well-trained and proven to be effective in action.

Some students are in favor of the new law. Kayla Sentell, 18, is beginning her college career at the U of M studying health and human performance.

“I suppose I feel more safe knowing that if the situation presented itself that action needed to be taken; we could feel protected by our teachers,” Sentell said.

In May, U of M president M. David Rudd sent an email after the law was passed by Tennessee legislature saying he did not think more weapons on campus would necessarily make the U of M safer. He also said the University of Memphis is one of the safest campuses in the nation, and this new law will jeopardize the high standards the U of M is seeking for students.

University of Memphis has laid out some regulations outside of the state law. Full-time employees enrolled in a class will not be able to carry weapons, and those with permission to carry on campus will be required to keep their handguns with them at all times.

Guns will not be allowed in stadiums, gymnasiums, offices of medical or mental health services, K-12 school buildings or childcare centers.

Weapons will continue to be banned from school-sponsored events, meetings regarding disciplinary matters and meetings regarding tenure.

Any employees hoping to carry concealed weapons must first meet with police services, where they will fill out a form.

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