NASHVILLE — The state Senate on Tuesday voted to allow faculty and workers with handgun carry permits to be armed on the campuses of Tennessee public colleges and universities.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell passed on a 28-5 vote, and the House was expected to take up the measure on Wednesday. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam raised concerns about the measure for not giving institutions the power to opt out of allowing more guns on campus.
Bell, R-Riceville, was dismissive of the results of a survey of faculty at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville that largely opposed to measure.
"I think some of these people need to take their medication," Bell said, adding that he hopes some professors will follow through on vows to quit if the bill becomes law.
"Maybe this will give UT a chance to hire some conservative teachers if we have a mass exodus of some of these liberals who responded to this," he said.
Bell said that under the bill, workers and faculty would still be banned from carrying firearms at:
— Stadiums or gymnasiums while school-sponsored events are in progress.
— Meetings where disciplinary or tenure issues are being discussed.
— Hospitals or offices where medical or mental health services are provided.
— Any location prohibited by another law, such as at day care centers or elementary schools located on campus.
While Tennessee's handgun carry law allows permit holders to carry their weapons openly, the campus bill would require firearms to be concealed.
Many of those provisions of the bill were made at the behest of higher education and law enforcement officials, Bell said.
Haslam's stance on the bill appears to have softened in recent weeks.
"I've always felt that whoever is in charge of that facility, whatever it is, should get to decide," Haslam said. "UT and the (Tennessee Board Regents), while initially expressing some reservations, ended up saying we're OK with the bill as it is. We had expressed some concern, so we'll see."