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Tennessee bill would allow college students to carry guns on campus

Tennessee lawmakers are proposing a bill that would allow people to carry guns on college campuses.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State legislators are proposing a bill that would allow college students to carry a gun on their campus.

The bill, HB0977/SB0827, was introduced in the legislature by Rep. Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill) and Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) on Jan. 30. It would amend a Tennessee law that prevents most people from carrying guns on school campuses to exclude public and private college campuses. The law would still apply to K-12 schools in the state. 

Students at the moment aren’t allowed to carry firearms on campus, even if they have a permit and own one. However, in 2016 the state passed a similar law allowing faculty and staff to be armed if they have a permit.

If this bill passes, students would still have to go through training and get a permit.

Democratic legislators objected to the proposed change to state law.

“I'm very opposed to this bill," Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville) said. "I will definitely vote against it.”

Hensley and Campbell said the purpose of the bill is to "allow law-abiding citizens to defend themselves" on college campuses. 

Campbell responded with a question and said gun and violence rates were already high.

“How many, how many kids how many people have to die before we realize that guns do not make us safer?” Campbell said. “The more that we make guns available and accessible to people, the more that we're going to have gun violence."

Hensley said there's more to consider when looking at safety on campuses. 

"It's not always just shootings," Hensley said. "But there's many assaults that happen and rapes and just issues where people do harm to people.”

Both of the sponsors also spoke about the importance of protecting constitutional rights. 

"Just because somebody is going on a college campus, they should not have to forfeit their right to defend themselves,” Hensley said.

Campbell said it's best to listen to the experts on how to provide safety instead of placing more guns in people's hands. 

"I just would say that we can protect Second Amendment rights and also have common sense gun regulations,” Heidi said.

UT sent the following statement as a response about the bill:

“The University of Tennessee has long opposed efforts to further expand the presence of firearms on public campuses. We will continue to monitor the legislation and any implications it may have on our campus communities.”

As for students on campus, the thought of carrying a gun sounded like a foreign concept to some.

“Yeah that’s probably not the best idea,” Rachel Forrest, a UTK student, said.

Another student said he was somewhere in the middle. 

"I wouldn’t be opposed to it but I don’t really see I need for it,” Noah Armistead said. 

Some that taught at UTK said they were in complete opposition to the idea.

"Insanely uncomfortable... a viscerally disgusted reaction,” Maddie Harvin, a UTK lecturer, said.

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