KNOXVILLE – Would you feel safe if your professor brought a gun to the classroom or laboratory?
What if you brought your family to a football game at an emotionally-charged Neyland Stadium full of 100,000 people, and the UT employee sitting next to you brought his gun?
Would you be worried if your infant attended daycare or child took a field trip on campus where faculty and staff carried guns?
These scenarios could become reality at public institutions of higher education in Tennessee.
The University of Tennessee, including all of its campuses and institutes statewide, is taking a stand against a proposed bill currently before the state House Judiciary Committee that would allow more people to carry guns on campus, creating an unsafe environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors.
HB 2016 is scheduled to come before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, April 19. The bill would allow UT faculty and staff with handgun carry permits to bring their guns to campus. Current law prohibits anyone, even handgun carry permit holders, other than law enforcement to bring weapons to campus.
The University of Tennessee joins campus and local police forces and the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police in opposition to this proposal. Faculty and student government organizations on UT’s campuses also have passed resolutions opposing the bill. The board of the UT Knoxville Alumni Association passed a similar resolution this weekend.
“The University of Tennessee has stated its opposition to allowing anyone other than law enforcement officers to carry guns while on campus,” UT President Joe DiPietro said. “The current law works. There is no need to change it.”
“A primary priority of the university is the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff. This responsibility is taken seriously, and campuses work with law enforcement to take measures to create the safest environments possible. We agree with law enforcement that campuses will not become safer with more guns,” he said.
Campus police officers, campus officials, students and faculty members plan to attend the committee meeting on Tuesday.
“A college campus is a unique place. In addition to freshmen away from home for the first time and faculty and staff, the University every day hosts schoolchildren on field trips, babies in our Early Learning Center, sports fans, parents and high school students on campus tours and citizens attending music and art events,” said UT Knoxville Chief of Police Gloria Graham.
“We oppose the proposal because it will inhibit our ability to provide security to people on campus and reduce our effectiveness if confronted with a violent situation. Our department and departments around the state urge legislators to defeat this proposal immediately,” she said.
The UT Health Science Center in Memphis is holding a news conference at 10 a.m. CDT with campus and Memphis police, and officers from other institutions such as the University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College.
Student leaders at UT Knoxville are holding a news conference at 11 a.m. EDT today on campus.
Don Green, executive director of the UT Institute for Public Service’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center, is available for interviews discuss how an increase in guns on campus could complicate police response to shooting incidents. Green is a former deputy chief of police, and he served as a SWAT team leader. To schedule an interview, please contact Susan Robertson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-974-6621.
The University of Tennessee is the state’s comprehensive land-grant institution with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga and Martin; the Health Science Center based in Memphis; the statewide Institutes of Agriculture and for Public Service, and the Space Institute in Tullahoma, which is managed by UT Knoxville.