By Steve Megargee, Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee has begun grappling with the implementation of a new law that allows employees to carry concealed weapons on campuses of state colleges.
UT Police Chief Troy Lane held a news conference Thursday to discuss the new law, which goes into effect July 1. Under the law, full-time employees of public colleges and universities who have handgun permits will be able to carry concealed weapons on campus. However, the law does not cover every contingency. So individual schools are drawing up specific policies.
Lane said he already is getting questions about the various exceptions, such as a provision that weapons are not allowed in “stadiums, gymnasiums or auditoriums where University-sponsored events are in progress.”
“What constitutes a school-sanctioned event or a university activity? Are we going to have to better define what is an auditorium and what is not an auditorium?” he asked. “We’re going to have to feel through this process for the next several months.”
Suggestions for handling some tricky situations are outlined in guidance provided by UT.
For instance, guns aren’t allowed in disciplinary meetings, but what happens when discipline comes up unexpectedly? Since a gun can’t be left in an office, UT suggests the employee ask to be excused from the meeting and take the gun to his or her vehicle or call law enforcement to store it.
Also, eligible employees can carry a gun in a UT vehicle, but they can’t leave it there. So if they are travelling somewhere where firearms are prohibited, like a K-12 school, they are advised not to carry or to arrange to store the gun with local police.
Lane said his department is offering an optional training for anyone who registers to carry a gun on campus. He said the class will review the law. He emphasized that armed employees are “not to act as a police officer” if there were to be an active shooter on campus.
“We want you to secure yourself and secure those around you and protect them, and let the police intervene and handle the situation,” he said.
The Knoxville campus will begin registering employees who want to carry concealed handguns on Monday. Employees have to register with whatever law enforcement agency has jurisdiction; in most cases, that is the campus police. However, in some cases it will be a municipal police department or county sheriff.
Similar questions are faced by the Board of Regents schools — which include 13 community colleges and 27 technical colleges. A proposed policy regulating guns on those campuses is up for a vote next week. The six state universities in the Board of Regents system are at work on their own policies.