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VOL. 35 | NO. 14 | Friday, April 8, 2011




Bill to allow guns on campus clears House panel

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NASHVILLE (AP) — A measure to allow faculty and staff to carry handguns on the campuses of Tennessee's public colleges and universities cleared its first legislative committee on Wednesday.

The measure sponsored by freshman Republican Rep. Andy Holt of Dresden advanced out of the House Judiciary Subcommittee despite opposition from the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police.

The law enforcement group in a letter sent to all 132 members of the General Assembly a day earlier said allowing guns on campus could create scenarios where police wouldn't be able to determine whether armed people were "well meaning" or committing a crime.

The group also said handgun carry permit holders don't have the "stressful shooting" training needed to handle dangerous situations.

"Just because someone is permitted to carry a weapon, we cannot presume the individual's ability or skill set with that weapon during an alarming situation," according to the letter signed by Oak Ridge Police Chief David Beams and Vanderbilt University Police chief August Washington.

Holt said his bill would require a special two-hour course for campus handgun training and require all guns to be concealed.

"This is a personal safety issue," he said. "And I believe that is what the Second Amendment grants to those of us who choose."

Fellow Republican Rep. Barrett Rich of Somerville, a former state trooper, agreed.

"I will never, ever, on this committee or any other way in this General Assembly, make a vote that would prohibit someone from the ability to protect themselves."

The companion bill has yet to move in the Senate, where Republican Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville has expressed reservations about the concept.

"That gets a little tough," Ramsey said about the measure in his press conference last week. "So that's not something I'm ready to address right now."

The bill also appears to be at odds with the position taken by Gov. Bill Haslam during last year's campaign. The Republican governor said he wants to leave it to college administrators to decide whether to allow gun on campus.

Spokesman David Smith said Haslam's position hasn't changed since the campaign.

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