Liberty University president OK with guns in school’s dorms
LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) — Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. told students at the Christian school they could bring concealed weapons into their dorms, ending a “gun-free” zone on campus.
The announcement followed his encouragement on Friday that students and other members of the campus community seek permits to carry concealed weapons to counter any possible armed assault on the campus.
“Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” Falwell told a convocation crowd of thousands.
Falwell said the recommendation followed the mass shooting days earlier in San Bernardino, California, that left 14 dead. He also mentioned Muslims in his call-to-arms but insisted he was referring specifically to the California killers, Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik.
In an interview, Falwell said the guns-in-dorms decision was in response to students who had requested it. Since Friday, he said, about 240 students had sought free gun-safety lessons offered by campus police required for a concealed-carry permit.
Falwell said the proposal would have a limited impact because most students who are old enough to get a permit live off campus. In Virginia, 21 is the minimum age to get a concealed-carry permit.
The school’s governing board must approve the change.
About 950 people on the Liberty campus — students, faculty and staff — already have concealed-carry permits, Falwell said.
The decision drew a divided reaction.
“It just makes no sense whatsoever to introduce firearms into a space that is currently one of the very safest spaces for our young adults,” said gun control advocate Lori Haas, whose daughter Emily was wounded in the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. “The risk of gun violence on college campuses, despite the high-profile ones, is virtually nonexistent according to data.”
Philip Van Cleave, president of the pro-gun Virginia Citizens Defense League, had a different view.
“Anytime you have a gun-free zone, you’ve got a dangerous area — especially if criminals or terrorists are aware of it,” he said.
Having armed people around improves the chances of thwarting an attack and saving lives, he said.
Andrew Goddard, another gun control advocate whose son was wounded at Virginia Tech, called that theory “a fantasy world thing.”
“The idea that you are going to stop something by turning it into a gun fight in a restricted area like that, I don’t buy it,” he said.
He said Liberty’s decision makes little sense.
“They don’t trust the students to have a toaster oven in their dorm room but they let them walk around with a gun in their back pocket,” he said. “I don’t think I ever heard of a mass toaster-ovening.”