NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a part of Everytown for Gun Safety, today spoke out against Governor Haslam’s decision to allow Senate Bill 2376 to be enacted into law without his signature. S.B. 2376 makes it legal for full-time employees of Tennessee’s public colleges and universities to carry guns on campus, in spite of overwhelming opposition from Tennessee college administrators, campus security, faculty, students, law enforcement and parents. The decision ignores extensive law enforcement testimony about the effect this policy will have on law enforcement’s ability to respond to emergencies, as well as recent polling that finds 87 percent of University of Tennessee- Knoxville faculty strongly disagree that allowing guns on campus is in the best interest of the campus community.
Governor Haslam has rarely allowed a bill to become law without his signature. In a statement issued today, he expressed concern about the law not giving enough discretion to campus security and administrators to make security decisions about their campuses. The Governor’s concern echoed those of campus officials who spoke out about the dangers of the policy, including John Edens, Chief of Police at Northeast State Community College, and Bruce Harber, Chief of Police and Vice President of Administration at the University of Memphis.
STATEMENT FROM JODI POLAHA, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR AT EAST TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY AND VOLUNTEER WITH THE TENNESSEE CHAPTER OF MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA:
“Governor Haslam has failed college communities across Tennessee by allowing guns on campus to become law without putting his name on the bill, despite the fact that his legitimate concerns about the bill, which were echoed by law enforcement, were not addressed. It’s disappointing to see our governor, who just weeks ago signed common sense gun safety legislation, choose to stand idly by while a dangerous bill that is opposed by law enforcement and campus stakeholders passes into law. Tennessee’s college communities don’t want guns on campus and it shouldn’t be forced on us. This legislation will hurt the reputation of Tennessee’s colleges and universities, and threaten to diminish our academic communities.”
Throughout the 2016 legislative session, the Tennessee chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America worked as part of a coalition to encourage lawmakers to keep public safety as a priority. Tennessee volunteers with Moms Demand Action drove over three thousand calls and emails to lawmakers, testified in opposition to guns on campus before the House Civil Justice Committee at the State Capitol, held their first ever Lobby Day at the State Capitol and recently hosted a “teach-in” panel at East Tennessee State University to discuss the potential dangers of the new guns on campus law.
Earlier this month, Governor Haslam signed legislation that requires the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to notify local officials when dangerous domestic abusers illegally try to buy a gun and fail a background check. Just after Governor Haslam signed that legislation strengthening Tennessee’s background check system, the legislature voted down Senate Bill 1613, which would have allowed some violent felons – including those convicted of voluntary manslaughter, felony domestic abuse, aggravated robbery and even kidnapping – to regain their ability to possess firearms almost immediately after their sentence is completed. Earlier this session, the Senate Judiciary Committee stopped Senate Bill 1483, a bill that would have dismantled the current requirement that a person who wants to carry a handgun in public must undergo a criminal history check and get a permit.
Last year, Tennessee was one of seventeen states that rejected guns on campus legislation. Texas and Idaho are two of the only other states to pass guns on campus bills in recent years and they are already experiencing the negative consequences. Just months after Idaho’s guns on campus bill went into effect, a professor shot himself during class. In Texas, renowned professors have announced that they will leave the University of Texas system to take jobs in other states, while many of the educators who have remained in Texas have said that the law is undermining professor’s’ ability to teach. What’s more, Texas universities will have to endure skyrocketing insurance and security costs as a result of the law – expenses that will cut into research budgets. By letting S.B. 2376 be enacted into law, Governor Haslam has misguidedly subjected Tennessee colleges and universities to these same risks and costs.