In the aftermath of mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary and Virginia Tech, Liberty University now allows its students, staff and visitors to carry loaded guns into classrooms. All gun carriers must have concealed carry permits and permission from the campus police.
“I think it’s good that Liberty is a little more open than some schools, and I think it’ll continue to create a higher level of security on campus than what was found at Virginia Tech,” Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. told the Lynchburg newspaper News & Advance.
The College of William and Mary community seems to have a different outlook. Although Virginia is one of 23 states that allows its college campuses to make the decision to allow or ban concealed carry weapons, out of the 78 colleges and universities in the commonwealth only Liberty University and Blue Ridge Community College have made guns permissible. The College’s policy bans weapons in academic buildings, dorms, dining halls and athletic facilities, as well as at institutional events, such as the Last Day of Classes.
Young Democrats President Zachary Woodward ’14 questioned whether Liberty’s new policy equates to a higher level of security.
“If you look at data and examples, more guns in the hands of untrained individuals does not indicate an increase in security,” Woodward said.
He pointed to the Gabby Giffords shooting in Tuscon, Arizona, where a bystander with a concealed carry gun almost shot another bystander he believed to be the shooter.
In Faculty Assembly President and Associate professor in the Counseling Program at the School of Education Rick Gressard’s personal experience, College faculty prefer not to have guns on campus.
“Academic dialogue requires the trust that you can disagree,” Gressard said. “Having lethal weapons in my classroom environment would be disturbing to me, honestly.”
Gressard highlighted young adult development and alcohol as potential concerns in terms of having guns on campus.
“Given an environment where young people are just growing up, are just learning how to use alcohol, is adding a lot of weapons to that situation — given what we know about alcohol impairing judgment — is that a good idea?” Gressard said. “The combination of alcohol and guns has always been a lethal one.”
Gressard also pointed out an increase in guns increases the means to commit suicide.
“In terms of suicide, I can only imagine that it’s going to worsen the situation, or make the whole situation potentially more lethal,” Gressard said.
College Republicans Chair Chandler Crenshaw ’14 believes the focus should be less on guns and more on mental health.
“What I think that the thing we need to attack is what made the Virginia Tech shooter decide to actually take the gun onto campus and start shooting and take ourselves away from this scenario where we’re defending ourselves,” Crenshaw said.
Woodward disagrees on leaving guns out of the debate.
“It’s often treated as an ‘either- / or’ situation in the gun debate — you can either have mental health awareness or you have to have more gun control,” Woodward said. “I personally support an ‘all of the above’ approach.”
Chief of Police Don Challis said campus shootings are a rare occurrence that lack conclusive data.
“You’re safer on a college campus than you are at home, at the mall, at the theater, at the baseball game and it’s hard to measure things when they are so rare,” Challis said. “So I don’t know what we hope to gain by arming students, faculty and staff for something that is so uncommon.”