Memphis president: campus carry would ‘disrupt our academic mission’

As Tennessee lawmakers gear up for a final vote on a hot-button campus carry bill, one university president is publicly condemning the measure as a barrier to academic freedom.

“We oppose this legislation and do not believe the presence of more weapons will make our campuses safer,” University of Memphis (UM) President David Rudd wrote in an email to all students and faculty. “More weapons on campus may result in more frequent emergency alerts and possible lockdowns, which will disrupt our academic mission and will adversely impact student success.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 2376 (SB 2376), would allow full-time employees of public institutions who have a handgun permit to carry a firearm only on the property of their respective institutions. Consequently, students with concealed handgun permits would still not be allowed to exercise their Second Amendment rights on school grounds.

Under current law, it is illegal for any student or employee to carry any type of potentially deadly weapon on the grounds of any public or private educational facility.

Sponsors of SB 2376 argue that allowing trained employees to carry concealed firearms on campus would help protect students in active shooter scenarios. Campus police officers, however, disagree, arguing that adding more guns to the mix would only make the situation more confusing.

“We have a well-trained police department and a mutual assistance agreement with MPD. If the bill passes, every person and weapon encountered will have to be secured on the way to responding toward a threat,” UM Chief of Police Bruce Harber told The Daily Helmsman. “This deviates from the national model that urges police officers to respond as quickly as possible in situations where literally every second is critical.”

Harber cosigned Rudd’s letter and reiterated his logic that “encountering armed people will delay police officers from responding to threats.”

Rudd and Harber also argued that concealed handgun holders are not sufficiently trained to respond to violent situations, which, they say, “could lead to catastrophic consequences.”

Stuart Dedmon, president of Tennessee’s Students for Concealed Carry chapter, objected to Harber’s reasoning and called the president’s public denouncement an emotional reaction.

“I believe that Dr. Rudd’s statement is based on emotions and expected narratives rather than the facts that are readily available,” Dedmon told Campus Reform. “His intuitions are understandable and not invalid. However, in any serious domain of inquiry, people make decisions based upon the observable facts rather than their gut feelings.”

Dedmon thinks the facts favor his position, which he said has already been proven and tested in several other states.

“Campus carry is no longer a scenario in which we are unaware of the potential outcome, because the theory of campus carry has already been tested in Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Wisconsin, and starting later this year, Texas,” he said. “The reality is that campus carry has become a non-issue in the states that allow it, and I see no reason why it will be any different in the state of Tennessee.”

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