70 professors pack heat at Memphis colleges

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A Tennessee law, passed in 2016, gives professors at public universities the right to carry handguns in the classroom.

Dozens of Mid-South professors have already signed up, unbeknownst to students and their colleagues.

The law allows full-time faculty, staff, and other employees at public colleges and universities to carry guns on campus if they have a carry permit and register with campus security.

In the six months since the law passed, 11 employees registered to carry at Southwest Tennessee Community College, 22 registered at University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and 37 registered at University of Memphis.

The law does give schools the ability to ban guns in some buildings. Each campus has a map showing which buildings are off limits to concealed carry weapons.

The law is geared toward promoting campus safety, but the feeling among students is mixed.

"I feel safer with them carrying a gun," Memphis student Kerstin Rutherford said.

"It's not a bad thing, if they know how to use it well," Memphis student Ryan Herd said.

"Someone could be two minutes away from snapping," Rhodes College student Justice Franklin said. "Seeing guns around could make someone feel very unsafe, especially considering the state of America currently."

Rhodes College is a private school, so it does not fall under the new Tennessee law, but Franklin takes several classes at University of Memphis too. He said he fears that the law could turn professors into dangers to students.

"Having multiple people with guns does not make me feel safe. If it turns into a shootout at that point--at any rate you are not saving people, you are putting people in danger," Franklin said.

UT Health Science Center Police Chief Anthony Berryhill said the situation Franklin described is a significant fear.

"We have to realize a situation like this could happen to us," Berryhill said.

He said from a law enforcement standpoint, the fewer guns during a crisis situation the better.

"That shooter gets the weapon and now that's more gun power we have to deal with," Berryhill said.

He encouraged those registered to carry to use the weapons for personal protection only. He cautioned gun holders against taking charge in an active shooter situation.

"Leave. Let the professionals come in, that have been training to do this. Come in let us handle it and you just exit the building," Berryhill said.

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