Trustees keep Liberty University gun-free

LYNCHBURG, Va. (ABP) -- Liberty University will remain gun-free, trustees at the Baptist school founded by the late Jerry Falwell decided March 3.

Last year, Liberty's chapter of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus asked university officials to change the school's firearm policies to allow people with concealed-handgun permits to carry weapons on campus.

"Liberty University prides itself in not adhering to 'political correctness' and is obligated to consider the facts instead of simply adhering to politically popular policies," the group appealed in an online petition.

The petition said current rules banning firearms on campus "only deter the honorable" and that anyone intending to commit violence "would have no concern for breaking a university rule."

Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, a non-profit group claiming 36,000 members nationwide, formed immediately after the April 16, 2007, massacre that killed more than 30 at Virginia Tech University. The group claims to have no affiliation with the National Rifle Association or any political party.

Liberty Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. said last October he would take the request to Liberty's board of trustees. According to local media, trustees did not take a formal vote at their March 3 meeting but agreed by consensus of continuing the policy of allowing only police officers to bear arms while on campus.

"The feeling was that, unlike most private property owners, we have our own police force," the younger Falwell said, quoted in the Lynchburg News & Advance. "So the decision was made, since crime has not really been a problem at L.U., not to make any changes to the policy at this time."

Virginia requires that a person be 21 years old to apply for a concealed-handgun permit. Falwell said a major concern was that if permit holders live in a dorm, their weapons might fall into the wrong hands. He also said some faculty members were uncomfortable with students carrying weapons while they handed out grades.

The Students for Concealed Carry on Campus group says on its website that legislatures in nine states are now considering changing gun laws to allow concealed carry on college campuses for permit holders.

The petition by the Liberty chapter said they were not asking for all students to be allowed to have guns, but only that those already trained and licensed to carry a firearm be allowed to do so while on campus like they do everywhere else.

In comments to media, Falwell left open the possibility of, in the future, allowing faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons if they determine they need it for enhanced security.

Recently the university opened its off-campus firearm ranges -- previously used primarily for police training -- to students for target practice with rifles, shotguns and handguns. When not in use at the range, students living on campus are required to store their weapons with university police, and commuters must keep them unloaded and stored in the trunk of their vehicles.

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Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.