House panel refers guns-on-campus bill for study

House panel refers guns-on-campus bill for study

May 4th, 2011 by Associated Press in News

LUCAS L. JOHNSON II, Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A proposal to let faculty and staff carry guns on the campuses of Tennessee public universities has likely failed this session.

The House Judiciary Committee, on a voice vote, decided to send the measure to a committee for further study this summer. The Senate Judiciary Committee was to hear the companion bill later in the day.

The measure - sponsored by Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, and Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville - was opposed by both of the state's higher education systems and by the police chiefs' association.

"We've got our police chiefs who are very well-trained ... and we're sort of listening to them," said David Gregory, vice chancellor of administration for the Tennessee Board of Regents. "And they believe having more guns on campuses is a negative thing."

Debbie Ingram has a 22-year-old daughter who attends the University of Tennessee. She's glad the bill stalled, and hopes it will die.

"I wish it would have just failed completely and for us to not have to deal with this again next year," she said. "I think it puts our children at risk."

Holt said he will probably bring the bill back up in the future.

"If they feel like summer study is the best option for it, then I'll be supportive of that move," he said.

House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick said he believes lawmakers opposing the measure were simply listening to their constituents.

"There are a lot of people who think it ought to be left up to the local university to take care of security issues, rather than the Legislature," said the Chattanooga Republican. "I think that had a lot to do with it."

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam told The Associated Press last month that he wants to leave it up to administrators at each school to decide whether to allow guns to be carried.

Supporters of the legislation say they would leave it up to administrators to ban guns on campus as long as they are willing to guarantee the safety of students and staff. Haslam called that standard unrealistic.

"It's very hard on a campus - or in a lot of other situations - to guarantee anybody's safety," Haslam said at the time. "So that language is worrisome."

The number of Tennessee handgun carry permit holders in January was nearly 308,000, a 40 percent increase since the same month in 2009. Over that same period, about 1,600 permits were suspended or revoked because of criminal charges or orders of protection in domestic violence cases.