MTSU’s Student Government Association voted Thursday to officially oppose a bill proposed last month by State House Representative Andy Holt that would allow full time employees of state colleges and universities carry guns on campuses in Tennessee.
The SGA bill passed by a 14 to 12 vote and states that SGA’s executive board will send a letter to Governor Bill Haslam, Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, House Speaker Beth Harwell and representative Andy Holt explaining their opposition.
Senator for the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences, Kenneth Anthony, sponsored the SGA legislation to formally oppose Holt’s bill. Some of the concerns Anthony outlined in his bill included that the campus carry bill is both unnecessary, as well as threatening to the non-carrying faculty, staff and students at MTSU.
“The university police department at Middle Tennessee State University is a fully functioning law enforcement agency that is open and operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to provide police services on the MTSU campus,” Anthony read from the SGA bill.
According to Anthony, MTSU’s campus police told him that their response time in an emergency “depends on the severity of the situation,” however, if there was an active shooter on campus they would try to respond between one and three minutes. Anthony said that he was also informed by campus police that the majority of crimes reported on MTSU’s campus are robberies that occur after dark when most faculty and staff are no longer at school.
Members of SGA who voted against opposing Holt’s bill said that they would personally feel more safe with MTSU faculty and staff being able to carry a concealed weapon on campus. Connor McDonald, Senator for the College of Liberal Arts, pointed out that only faculty and staff who have valid permits to carry would be able to have a gun on campus under Holt’s bill.
“This law isn’t going to allow every crazy teacher who wants to carry a gun on campus [carry],” McDonald said. “I would feel more safe if faculty members who have permits were allowed to carry on campus.”
Senators Daniel Ladendorf and April Carroll both agreed with McDonald and voiced their concerns with MTSU police department’s response time during an emergency.
“One to three minutes may not seem like a lot, but if you have a professor with a concealed carry permit and a shooter comes in the response time is a whole lot less,” Carroll said.
Senator Dominic Cooper, also representing the College of Liberal Arts, spoke as someone with a concealed carry permit, and an opponent of Holt’s bill.
“What about the teacher who has a bad day? Who comes in, gets a disruptive student and may take their anger out in a way with their concealed weapon?” Cooper asked.
Meanwhile, Senator Brandon Lewis said that the issue is not teachers using guns against students, nor mass shootings due to how rarely they actually occur. His reason for opposing Holt’s bill was that law enforcement should be the only people trusted with guns on college campuses.
“I feel that there’s a lot of situations that could occur on campuses where something could seem to be fishy…or wrong and a teacher who is not nearly as trained as a police officer may misinterpret the situation and use their gun irresponsibly,” Lewis said. “I don’t think that our education should be something that could potentially be affected by a bad situation.”