UT Knoxville Preparing to Register Guns on Campus

The University of Tennessee on Wednesday published new policies that outline when and where employees can carry guns on campus in anticipation of a new law that takes effect this summer.

The law, which will generally allow all full-time state college employees with handgun-carry permits to carry guns on campus, will take effect July 1. UT President Joe DiPietro sent a message Wednesdaydiscussing how the university system would handle the change.

“I understand strong feelings exist regarding guns on campus and want to assure you of our unwavering commitment to the safety of our faculty, staff and students as we implement this change,” DiPietro said in the message.

DiPietro and other college leaders across the state were staunchly opposed to the law as it made its way through the General Assembly earlier this year. Gov. Bill Haslam also expressed opposition to the legislation, although he allowed it to become law without his signature.

Throughout the legislative process, lawmakers did amend the law to reflect some input from colleges and law enforcement. For instance, employees who want to carry a gun, which needs to be concealed, on campus will need to notify the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the campus, and could not bring a weapon into a stadium or gymnasium during school-sponsored events or in meetings regarding discipline or tenure. The legislation also was amended to place liability on the permit holder, not the college, if there is an accidental discharge.

UT’s policy goes into more detail regarding the rules surrounding the law’s implementation.

The policy says, for instance, that full-time employees could not carry a gun on campus if they also are enrolled in a campus course, unless that course was taught entirely online. The policy also forbids employees from intentionally showing another person their gun, but it allows lenience for employees who accidentally show their gun to someone else.

The policy DiPietro announced Wednesday will apply to UT campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis. Leaders and law enforcement at each campus will discuss their individual approaches to parts of the policy in coming days, DiPietro said.

State Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, who sponsored the law in the House, has said he believes the “important next step” is to allow students to go armed on campus as well.

“My intention is to eliminate all gun-free zones, whether it’s the legislature or a college campus,” Holt said earlier this year.

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