For the past four months, any full-time UT employee could have been carrying a handgun due to the campus carry law passed this past summer.
This fact was the topic of the final Diversity Dialogue of the semester hosted by the Diversity Committee on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Other dialogues this year addressed police relations with minorities, mass shootings and freedom of expression.
The campus carry law allows all full-time university employees to carry a concealed weapon if they have a gun license, have notified UTPD that they intend to carry a weapon and do not bring it into certain designated areas.
Chief of UTPD Troy Lane, former President of the Faculty Senate Bruce MacLennan, Community Outreach Leader for Knoxville's Educators Demand Gun Sense Kimberly Peterson and President of the UTK Chapter of Students for Concealed Carry Chandler Tuck participated in the final diversity dialogue.
Panelists addressed questions and concerns from the moderator and attendees.
The first question was if guns on campus would make things safer. Lane declined to comment, but MacLennan and Peterson both thought that guns on campus would make things less safe. MacLennan said that while campus carry can prevent the shootings that supporters of the legislation cite, concealed carry can negatively influence other issues such as mental health problems, anger issues and accidental discharge. Tuck argued that guns will make the campus safer since people will be more able to defend themselves.
The second question came from a student regarding the effect of guns on the ability of students to speak freely. Lane again declined to comment, but Peterson mentioned cases where university employees left their jobs over concealed weapons policies on campus. Tuck again disagreed.
“I don’t support faculty leaving,” Tuck said, “but I personally don’t think that (this legislation) would have a huge impact on education here at the University of Tennessee.”
The next question was on the role of student opinion in gun control legislation. All panelists agreed that student opinion should be considered before making legislation. Lane said that while he did not endorse or oppose the legislation he believed that if a person has strong opinions on something, they should reflect those by voting.
One hundred and thirty UT employees notified police of their intent to carry, but Lane said that out of the 130 who notified the police, only 10 attended the optional crisis training course KPD offered. When Peterson spoke about a lack of mental health screenings as a problem in gun control legislation, a member of the audience brought up mandatory training.
The panelists were also asked how to make sure this new legislation does not affect campus safety. The panelists agreed that if a person sees a weapon, he or she should notify UTPD because the law only allows people to carry concealed weapons. Peterson and MacLennan urged students to act to prevent more lenient measures like student carry from passing. Tuck encouraged the opposite.
“We have great indication that college campus carry is coming down for students,” Peterson said. “Seventy-nine percent of college students don’t want this, so we need to organize, we need to get you all riled up, we need to get you all active in sending that message.”