Employee guns on campus now a reality in Tennessee colleges

Beginning Friday, guns are allowed on college campuses in Tennessee. Full-time employees with handgun permits at all public universities in the state can carry a concealed weapon on campus.

At the University of Tennessee at Martin, there are already six registered with campus safety.

UTM senior Ashton Goff says she feels safer walking through the quad knowing her teachers are armed. “If someone was to come in and try to shoot us or something, I’d feel more protected if one of my professors was about to carry a gun on them as well,” she says.

UTM is one of the safest four-year colleges in the state, according to a crime on campus report issued by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. That’s one of the many reasons not every professor agreed with the switch to more guns. Dr. David Coffey says he believes the Second Amendment can be interpreted in different ways.

“I don’t think there’s anything in the wording that says an individual citizen has the right to carry in a workplace," he says. Coffey says he believes that’s especially true considering so many of his colleagues opposed the measure. He says he fears this will expand to all students as well as employees someday.

A full-time employee can’t just walk into a classroom with a concealed weapon. They have to register with campus safety and provide their conceal carry permit.

Campus safety Lt. Jerry Garcia says it’s important for campus police to know which of the 745 full-time workers are packing heat. “It’s good for us to know so we have an idea. So, if for some reason we did have a situation, that we had to go into a building, we would know who already had a handgun.”

There are some locations, including gyms and auditoriums, where employees can’t bring a gun. Students can keep a handgun in the trunks of their vehicles on campus, but they cannot carry them. 

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