If Tennessee’s governor signs a bill this week easing gun restrictions at public colleges in his state, as many observers expect, he will be defying the wishes of many of the people who work on those campuses, a survey obtained by The Trace indicates.
An overwhelming majority of faculty members who responded to the survey, 87 percent, indicated they “strongly disagree” that “allowing guns on campus is in the best interest of the campus community.” Just 6 percent said that they support allowing firearms on university grounds.
The survey was conducted by email earlier this month by the University of Tennessee-Knoxville faculty senate, in response to legislation that would allow full-time public college employees with permits to carry concealed firearms on the job, so long as they alert local police that they plan to do so. Students, parents, and other employees would not have access to information about who has firearms on campuses.
In comments attached to the survey, faculty responded to the proposition with a mix of alarm and confusion.
“This would be a terrible move in all respects,” wrote one.
“In the words of John McEnroe, ‘You can’t be serious!’” said another.
Some respondents threatened to leave the state. “Can we have a bill to force every single lawmaker of the state to take courses in social sciences and humanities?” one person responded. “Seems their terminal illiteracy is a greater threat to humanity than global warming. I think I will leave this campus should such a stupid idea turn into law.”
Sprinkled among the comments were some statements in support of lifting gun restrictions. “I have no fear of other faculty/staff having guns on campus,” one faculty member wrote. “Shooters only target ‘no-gun’ zones for their attacks, so logically, the presence of guns would deter killings.”
The survey results were included with a letter circulated on April 16 to state lawmakers by state Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris, a Democrat who opposes the campus carry measure. The letter says “hundreds” of faculty responded to the survey, which was sent to 1,700 academics at three schools in the University of Tennessee system in response to the campus carry legislation.
The bill is now before Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican. Haslam has expressed concerns about the bill, but is ultimately expected to sign Harris tells The Trace.
A bill that would lift most restrictions barring both faculty and students from carrying guns on public college campuses in Georgia is also on the desk of that state’s governor, Nathan Deal.
Texas approved a campus carry measure last June; it goes into effect in August.