When Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. publicly encouraged students to carry concealed weapons as a means to fight off extremists during mass shootings like the one in California the previous week, pundits labeled him an extremist, too. But many college students around the country found his idea worth considering.
“Criminals are going to break the law no matter what, and you need a form of protection,” said David Roedema, 18, a chemistry major at Baylor University. “So might as well give them some opposition. It may not be the only solution, but it is certainly a deterrent.” Baylor bans firearms on campus, but Roedema said he would feel safer, in light of recent mass shootings, if there was at least one staffer in each building who had a concealed weapon because campus police cannot be everywhere at once.
At Liberty Dec. 4, Falwell spoke before thousands of students at the required weekly convocation. He closed the event by informing students the school offered college scholarships to the children of some of the first responders and victims’ families from the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino.
The FBI reported the shooters, Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, were Muslim extremists who had been radicalized “for quite some time” before the attack at Farook’s office Christmas party that left 14 people dead and 21 injured. The couple had gone to gun ranges in the Los Angeles area for several days before the shooting, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“It just blows my mind when I see the president of the United States say that the answer to circumstances like that is more gun control,” Falwell said in his closing remarks Friday night. “If some of those people in that community center had had what I’ve got in my back pocket right now …”
The students erupted in laughter and cheers at Falwell’s insinuation of a gun in his pocket.
“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed,” Falwell said. “I just want to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course. And let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
Falwell received a standing ovation.
Falwell clarified his comments the next day, stating he wasn’t talking about all Muslims, just “those who perpetrate attacks,” CNN reported.
But Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations condemned Falwell for inflammatory rhetoric toward Muslims.
"Anti-Muslim bigotry was still on the fringes after 9/11,” Hooper told CNN. “But it’s moving toward the mainstream thanks to Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and these type of comments.” Monday evening, Trump ignited a firestorm of criticism by calling for a temporary ban on Muslims immigrating to the United States.
In an interview on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Hillary Clinton said Falwell’s comments were “deplorable” and “hateful.” She also accused him of treason, claiming Falwell was “giving aid and comfort to ISIS and other radical jihadists.” The legal definition of treason includes providing “aid and comfort” to an enemy of the United States.
But all four of the full-time college students I talked to weren’t interested in discussing the political or religious views of any would-be mass murderers who might show up on campus. Instead, they focused on how carrying concealed weapons was a practical response.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports 19 states ban the carrying of concealed weapons on college campuses, while 23 states leave it up to each college or university. Even so, the vast majority of the 4,400-plus colleges and universities in the United States ban firearms on campus.
Liberty University, located in Lynchburg, Virginia, changed its policy to allow students, staff and faculty to carry concealed after the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech University, located just an hour to the west. The rampage, committed by only one student, left 32 dead and 17 wounded in two separate attacks that were two hours apart.
Micah Karr, 18, is a business management major at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in Flagstaff. NAU bans firearms on campus. Karr said that although he would not carry a concealed gun himself, he supported the idea that students and faculty should be allowed to do so.
“Even if it’s prohibited, those who have intention to kill will ‘carry’ on campus,” Karr said, “As you can see, it happened here.” Karr referenced the on-campus shooting that took place at NAU on Oct. 9, killing one and wounding three others when a freshman opened fire on his friends in a parking lot after a late night argument.
“If someone else would have had concealed-weapon carry, it might have helped,” he said.
Chelsea Taylor, 18, attends the University of Wyoming as an energy resource management major. She supports concealed weapons on campus though her school bans all firearms.
“Citizens need to be able to defend themselves. Leaving a country essentially defenseless is a setup for disaster,” she said.
Kaylee Shultz, 19, is a worship arts major at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. Although she supports concealed carrying, she is concerned that it could encourage people to practice killing, “and that’s not okay.” Her school bans weapons from the campus, but Shultz said banning guns does nothing because “if someone decides to shoot something up, they aren’t going to be particularly concerned with legalities.”
Liberty University officials agree. In a statement released Dec. 7, the university attempted to put to rest accusations of inciting hate and change the debate to a safety issue: “We should exercise our Second Amendment rights to protect ourselves in the event something similar should occur on our campus. Far from promoting an atmosphere of hate against Muslims, we are promoting an atmosphere of safety and self-defense.”
Courtesy: WORLD News Service
Publication date: December 14, 2015