SGA president Ross Rowland spoke at a press conference Monday addressing the bills being considered by the Tennessee General Assembly. The bills would allow for faculty and staff with handgun carry permits to carry their weapons on campus.
There is no statistical evidence showing that allowing guns on campus will deter campus violence. Ross Rowland, SGA president
The SGA resolution, sponsored by Arts and Sciences senators Eric Dixon and Terry Nowell, says that the students of UT are opposed to allowing faculty and staff with carry permits to bring their weapons onto campus.
"There is no statistical evidence showing that allowing guns on campus will deter campus violence," Rowland quoted from the resolution.
According to Rowland, 40 senators were in favor of the bill, 6 were opposed and there was one abstention. He says there is overwhelming support to keep guns off campus.
"As it stands, our senate represents all students through various constituencies like their living situation or academic college, so therefore, myself, representing the student government association, the student senate, and the student senate representing all students on campus, that is our opinion concerning weapons on campus," he said.
He does concede that while some members of the campus community have come to him and expressed opinions in opposition of the SGA resolution, he feels that the majority is opposed to weapons on campus.
Ceallach Scott, senior in political science, has had a carry permit for over 10 years.
I don't feel safe being disarmed when I come to classes when there are no metal detectors or searches. Ceallach Scott, senior in policital science
"I don't feel safe being disarmed when I come to classes when there are no metal detectors or searches," she said.
According to Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police even though members of the military and law enforcement officers are trained to handle such situations, they only hit their target less than 30 percent of the time.
"The Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police has said that permit holders do not have the necessary stressful shooting training needed to adequately face the threat of combating violent offenders," said Rowland.
Rowland says this is a non-partisan issue, the issue lies in student safety and maintaining an environment conducive to learning.
"UT police department opposes the current legislation, so we do oppose weapons being allowed on campus," said Lt. Emily Simerly with the University of Tennessee Police Department.
She says allowing weapons on campus could complicate how UTPD responds to incidents on campus.
"When people think of weapons on campus, most people think of active shooter situations, Virginia Tech, those sorts of things," Simerly said.
In April 2007, a lone shooter at Virginia Tech took the lives of 32 people, injured 25 others and then turned the gun on himself.
"For us, if you look at just strictly that type of situation and response, most law enforcement agencies around the country, and we're no difference, have a response plan in place where you go into a situation, the first group of officers who arrive and you're looking for the threat. And for us, the threat is anybody with a firearm," Simerly said.
She says if the legislation passes, it would be difficult to distinguish between a shooter and an individual with a carry permit in an active shooting situation.
In such a situation, UTPD, along with Knoxville Police Department, Knox County Sheriff's Department and the Tennessee Highway Patrol would all have jurisdiction to respond if needed.
Simerly says that response times vary, but that because campus is contained and there are between three and six officers plus supervisors on duty, response time would typically be very fast.