Campus authorities speak against faculty carrying firearms

(WMC-TV) - An explosive debate is revving up across Tennessee over a bill to allow public college employees to pack heat, and Monday, that debate came to Memphis.

UT-Memphis Police Chief Lue Walls-Upchurch hosted a news conference with the hope of putting a trigger-lock on a bill that would allow faculty to carry firearms.

"We uphold the right for everyone to carry guns, but not on our college campuses," Walls-Upchurch said. "We've taken the stand that we do not want to see guns on our campus."

Though the legislation, currently under consideration, would require faculty and staff to be trained and carry a permit, law enforcement officers like Southwest Community College Police Chief James Bolden are leery.

"We're getting ready to put guns in the hands of some of our citizens who don't have the necessary experience," Bolden said.

UT, the University of Memphis, Southwest have all had shootings either on or near campus.  But even faculty members voiced opposition to the bill.

"Guns are inherently dangerous," said Richard Nolan, an associate professor at the UT Health Science Library. "They are not necessarily the solution to the problem."

Walls-Upchurch said the bill is not well thought out.

"You have to realize that some of our students are also faculty," she said. "So I don't think that part has been truly thought out."

"I just hope that those parents and students and educators will get on the phone and email the lawmakers," Bolden added.

Meanwhile, University of Memphis President Shirley Raines released a statement opposing the bill today which said, "I believe, along with law enforcement, that campuses will not become safer with more gun carriers."

Faculty, staff, students and law enforcement plan to testify at a hearing on the legislation Tuesday.

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