Gov. Bill Haslam is drawing a new line when it comes to the debate over letting gun owners keep firearms in their vehicles at work.
The so-called "Guns in Parking Lots" bill is certain to be a hot issue again during the upcoming legislative session, but the governor said there is one place those guns don't belong: on Tennessee's college campuses.
"There is still a lot of debate to happen in the legislature over this," Haslam said.
Haslam said Wednesday the exclusion of college campuses from the proposal may be the thing needed for lawmakers to agree upon the issue.
"There are a few things that matters to me a lot in there," Haslam said. "We want to do something that keeps a great business environment here and to protect campuses of all types."
Middle Tennessee State University police Chief Buddy Peaster is quite outspoken about why he believes guns shouldn't be allowed on campus, even in vehicles.
"I don't think that's the wisest thing to do," Peaster said. "Allowing weapons - firearms in this case - to be carried around by people on college campuses doesn't make that campus safer."
MTSU students seemed to have mixed opinions.
"I ask the question, ‘Why do we need guns in our vehicles?' Maybe the reason is to protect ourselves. Protect ourselves from what?" said student John Gentuso.
"I'm against it," said student Patrick Edmonson. "That's why we have cops and security guards at the workplaces, so it's really not necessary."
"I know for myself, as a hunter and marksmen, it's a great inconvenience," said student Benton Beasley. "It would be a lot easier if I can keep it in my car where it poses no threat."
A former member of the MTSU Student Government Association has drafted a resolution in favor of allowing concealed weapons anywhere on campus as long as the person had a legal carry permit.
However, that proposal never made it to the full body, so it fell by the wayside.
MTSU Student Body President Coby Sherlock said that if the bill fails to pass in the state legislature, similar legislation could be taken up on individual campuses.
"I can foresee some of our more pro-active, conservative students reach out and pass a piece of legislation, or at least introduce a piece of legislation, requesting the ability to carry a weapon on campus with their carry permit," Sherlock said.
In a statement, the Tennessee Board of Regents said:
"TBR has historically not supported any bill that would open the door to allowing guns on our college campuses because of concern for the safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors. We have not yet seen anything as it relates to any specific legislation, and we will wait to comment further until we have more information."
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