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Twenty-five APSU employees are now registered to carry concealed handguns on campus due to a new law passed last spring.
The law, HB 1736, came into effect June 3,. and allows “Employees of any state college or university operating under the state board of regents or the University of Tennessee board of trustees [to carry a concealed handgun] if the employee is authorized to carry a handgun and carrying the handgun only on property owned, operated or in use by the college or university employing the employee,” according to the law.
Sen. Mike Bell created the law in reaction to the campus shooting in Oregon in October 2015. “It would allow people who are permit holders to defend themselves where the police cannot be right now and the police cannot be everywhere,” Bell said.
In order to carry, employees must register their handguns with the Office of Public Safety and Campus Police.
Employees are not allowed to carry handguns into formal meetings regarding disciplinary matters, tenure meetings, APSU or organization sponsored events, the Boyd Health building, Student Counseling Services, any places used by the Child Learning Center, rooms in the Marks building used by Middle College, any place where an athletic event is being held and any federal facility.
“The policy came through the university, so they can be a little more restrictive on things,” Chief of APSU Police Michael Kasitz said. “The one thing that isn’t mentioned in the law, but is mentioned in another law that the policy has is that they are not authorized inside university vehicles.”
In addition to prohibited locations, only full-time employees of APSU may carry concealed handguns. When the law was still a bill, both students and administration actively lobbied against it.
“It was our administration’s stance from the very beginning that we did not agree to this policy being enacted,” Executive Director of Public Relations Bill Persinger said. “It does not enhance education in any way that we can see.”
Persinger said APSU sent representatives to the Capitol Building but was not sure if any of them spoke.
SGA President Will Roberts encouraged the senate to pass a joint resolution stating the SGA’s opposition to the bill. He did so to support of other TBR universities’ SGAs who approved similar resolutions.
“Carrying a firearm or weapon of any kind is a huge responsibility and we just hope that people are responsible,” Persinger said.
Current APSU policy prohibits students from possessing any weapons on APSU property. The policy includes both real and fake weapons, or anything which can be potentially seen as a weapon like water guns or toy swords.
Dean of Students Gregory Singleton said a policy change is unlikely. “No. Absolutely not,” he said.
APSU employees can continue to register their concealed handguns on campus. Kasitz expects the number of registrants to increase after school starts. “We may see a spike at the beginning of August or September, but I don’t anticipate it going up much more,” he said.