Newspaper article News Sentinel

Guns-on-Campus Bill to Be Law ; Haslam, Citing Reservations, Won't Sign Legislation

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Guns-on-Campus Bill to Be Law ; Haslam, Citing Reservations, Won't Sign Legislation

Article excerpt

NASHVILLE -- Gov. Bill Haslam said Monday he is allowing the guns- on-campus bill to become law without his signature.

The bill, Senate Bill 2376, allows full-time faculty, staff and other employees of Tennessee's public colleges and universities who have handgun-carry permits to carry their guns on campus -- but they must notify the local law enforcement agency with primary responsibility for security on their campus -- the campus police, for example.

The governor said in a letter to the House and Senate speaker that he prefers to let campuses make their own decision.

He said: "I am letting SB 2376 become law without my signature. 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. 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.

"Ultimately, this legislation was tailored to apply to certain employees in specific situations, it provides protection from liability for the institutions, and it requires notification of law enforcement before carrying on campus. I hope that as a state we will monitor the impact of this new law and listen to the feedback of higher education leaders responsible for operationalizing it."

The bill does not allow students, including those with permits, to go armed on campus, as some states have allowed. However, a separate bill approved earlier this year and signed by the governor prohibits state colleges and universities from taking "adverse action" against students and employees with permits for transporting or storing a gun or ammunition in their parked vehicles on campus.

SB2376 requires campus employees with permits to carry their guns concealed, even though Tennessee's handgun-carry permit law allows open and concealed carry.

The bill prohibits the employees from carrying their guns in arenas and stadiums when public events like football and basketball games are underway. And they cannot carry guns in meetings in which their job performance or tenure is discussed.

The bill won Senate approval 28-5 on April 19 and House approval the following day on a 69-24 vote.

Proponents of the measure argued the legislation is necessary to provide additional safety on college campuses.

Opponents, including police chiefs, students and a significant number of faculty members at the University of Tennessee, said the legislation would not actually make the campus safer and would complicate how law enforcement handle active shooter incidents.

The bill goes into effect July 1, but it gives law enforcement agencies with jurisdictions over each campus authority to develop and implement policies and procedures regarding the law's requirement that employees notify law enforcement of their intent to go armed, and to offer voluntary courses or supplemental firearm training to employees who elect to go armed. …

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