Liberty University, the largest religion-affiliated U.S. school, is loosening restrictions for carrying firearms on its Lynchburg, Va., campus.
Liberty students who have an easy-to-obtain Virginia concealed carry permit and permission from campus police will now be able to carry a loaded gun into classrooms, according to a March 22 revision to school policy. University staff and visitors may also bring firearms into university buildings on campus, WSET reported. Students remain banned from bringing guns into residence halls, even with a permit.
"Students ought to have the ability to protect themselves," Josh Hetzler, a law student who helped draft the new policy, told WDBJ. "We've seen a number of instances here in the nation recently were schools are particularly vulnerable. They're gun free zones, except that the bad guys still get the guns."
Liberty, a Christian institution founded by television evangelist Jerry Falwell, has an enrollment of 74,000, including 62,000 taking online courses. The school dropped its ban on campus guns in November 2011. That step allowed faculty and staff to bring their guns into buildings if they had a permit, while students and visitors were allowed to carry guns in cars and on the campus grounds, but not inside buildings.
There are still restrictions. People on probation, students in violation of any academic or honor code, or those who have "been arrested for or charged with any assault, battery, stalking, crime of violence, or felony" are not allowed to carry guns on campus. Only residence hall directors will be allowed to bring guns into a dorm.
Most colleges prohibit the carrying of concealed handguns.
“I think it's good that Liberty is a little more open than some schools, and I think it’ll continue to create a higher level of security on campus than what was found at Virginia Tech," Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty chancellor, told the News & Advance.
Liberty joins 25 colleges in Colorado, Utah, Virginia and Michigan in allowing concealed carry on campus, according to the advocacy group Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus. Virginia is one of 24 states that leave the decision to ban guns with schools.
“A student with a concealed weapon is unlikely to prevent a mass shooting or crime," John Johnson, spokesman for the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, told the News & Advance. "On the other hand, the unintended consequences of gun possession by students and others -- a shooting during an argument or dispute, attempted suicide, unintentional shooting, etc. -- are real and make the college campus more dangerous every hour of every day."
Though Liberty students may now carry loaded weapons to class, Liberty rules continue to prohibit R-rated movies, un-Godly music, dancing, kissing or staying in a motel room with a member of the opposite sex, as outlined in the student handbook.
1981: The Attempted Assassination Of President Ronald Reagan
on March 30, 1981, President Reagan and three others were shot and wounded in an assassination attempt by John Hinckley, Jr. outside the Washington Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C. Reagan's press secretary, Jim Brady, was shot in the head.
1993: The Brady Handgun Violence Act
The Brady Handgun Violence Act of 1993, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, mandated that federally licensed dealers complete comprehensive background checks on individuals before selling them a gun. The legislation was named for James Brady, who was shot during an attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
1994: The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, instituted a ban on 19 kinds of assault weapons, including Uzis and AK-47s. The crime bill also banned the possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition. (An exemption was made for weapons and magazines manufactured prior to the ban.)
2004: Law Banning Magazines Holding More Than Ten Rounds Of Ammunition Expires
In 2004, ten years after it first became law, Congress allowed a provision banning possession of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition to expire through a sunset provision. Brady Campaign President Paul Helmke told HuffPost that the expiration of this provision meant that Rep. Gabby Giffords's alleged shooter was able to fire off 20-plus shots without reloading (under the former law he would have had only ten).
2007: The U.S. Court of Appeals For The District Of Columbia Rules In Favor Of Dick Heller
In 2007 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled to allow Dick Heller, a licensed District police officer, to keep a handgun in his home in Washington, D.C. Following that ruling, the defendants petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.
2008: The NICS Improvement Amendments Act
Following the deadly shooting at Virginia Tech University, Congress passed legislation to require states provide data on mentally unsound individuals to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, with the aim of halting gun purchases by the mentally ill, and others prohibited from possessing firearms. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush in January of 2008.
2008: Supreme Court Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban As Unconstitutional
In June of 2008, the United States Supreme Court upheld the verdict of a lower court ruling the D.C. handgun ban unconstitutional in the landmark case <em>District of Columbia v. Heller</em>.
Gabrielle Giffords And Trayvon Martin Shootings
Gun control advocates had high hopes that reform efforts would have increased momentum in the wake of two tragic events that rocked the nation. In January of 2011, Jared Loughner opened fire at an event held by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), killing six and injuring 13, including the congresswoman. Resulting attempts to push gun control legislation <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">proved fruitless</a>, with neither proposal even succeeding in gaining a single GOP co-sponsor. More than a year after that shooting, Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/trayvon-martin" target="_hplink">gunned down</a> by George Zimmerman in an event that some believed would bring increased scrutiny on the nation's Stand Your Ground laws. While there has been increasing discussion over the nature of those statutes, lawmakers were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">quick to concede</a> that they had little faith the event would effectively spur gun control legislation, thanks largely to the National Rifle Association's vast lobbying power. Read more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/trayvon-martin-shooting-gun-debate_n_1413115.html" target="_hplink">here</a>:
Colorado Movie Theater Shooting
In July of 2012, a heavily armed gunman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/aurora-shooting-movie-theater-batman_n_1688547.html" target="_hplink">opened fire on theatergoers</a> attending a midnight premiere of the final film of the latest Batman trilogy, killing 12 and wounding scores more. The suspect, James Eagan Holmes, allegedly carried out the act with a number of handguns, as well as an AR-15 assault rifle with a 100-round drum magazine. Some lawmakers used the incident, which took place in a state with some of the laxest gun control laws, to bring forth legislation designed to place increased regulations on access to such weapons, but many observers, citing previous experience, were <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/batman-shooting_n_1690547.html" target="_hplink">hesitant to say</a> that they would be able to overcome the power of the National Rifle Association and Washington gun lobby.
Sikh Temple Shooting
On August 5, 2012, white supremacist Wade Michael Page opened fire on a Sikhs gathered at a temple in Oak Creek, Wis., killing six and wounding four more before turning the gun on himself.