Law Enforcement Prepare For Guns At Colleges

Posted at 7:07 PM, May 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-04 00:07:27-04

Law enforcement agencies from across the state have less than two months to figure out how a new state law, allowing guns to be carried at Tennessee's public universities, will be implemented.

On Monday, Governor Bill Haslam allowed the controversial guns-on-campus bill to become law without his signature.

Under the new law faculty at public universities can now carry handguns on campus if they are full-time faculty members and have a carry conceal handgun permit. Faculty members who wish to carry guns must have a valid concealed carry permit and must notify law enforcement ahead of time.

The new law does not include students.

"Our preference has always been in the past that we not have to deal with this at all," says Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch.

Rausch has been a staunch opponent of the new law which will have a large impact on Knoxville home to the University of Tennessee, the state's largest public university.

As the law was being discussed in committee, Chief Rausch expressed concern that allowing anyone besides law enforcement to carry a gun on a college campus would dramatically impact their ability to respond to an active shooter situation.

"Our major concern any time firearms are involved is that someone gets hurt who is innocent," adding that initially it could be difficult for his officers to determine who is a threat.

Chief Rausch though has accepted the new law and is working closely with UT Police to implement a registration system and training for any faculty member who wishes to carry on campus.

"The best thing we can do is work with those who choose to carry a firearm on campus and work to assure it’s done safely. We’ll do some training for those who have firearms - teaching them how to secure themselves and others and take a defensive stance in case the shooter comes toward them," he added.

Under the law faculty members are not permitted to bring their guns into stadiums or gyms during school athletic events, and cannot bring them to meetings regarding discipline or tenure.

““I have long stated a preference for systems and institutions to be able to make their own decisions regarding security issues on campus, and I again expressed this concern throughout the legislative process this year," he said in a statement.  "Although SB 2376 does not go as far as I would like in retaining campus control, the final version of the bill included input from higher education and was shaped to accommodate some of their concerns,” Governor Bill Haslam said in a statement.

There are nine publicly funded university campuses in Tennessee, and dozens more two-year institutions and technical colleges.

The law goes into effect on July 1.