Citizens who have lawfully obtained a handgun carry permit should be permitted to have their weapon on a college campus, according to the MTSU organization Raiders for the Right to Bear Arms.
“It’s time for students, professors and staff to exclaim that we will no longer be defenseless targets on university campuses,” said Derek Mumphery, a member of the student-run group.
Mumphery reiterated why the group believes that students should be able to carry a licensed gun while on a university’s grounds, following an armed robbery Tuesday that occurred outside Scarlett Commons Apartments, an on-campus complex located near the Health, Wellness and Recreation Center.
The suspect is described as being about 5 feet 6 inches tall, weighing about 150 pounds, with blonde hair and a full goatee. He was last seen wearing a hoodie and blue jeans, carrying a black backpack and silver handgun, according to the MTSU Office of Public Safety.
The suspect fled before campus police arrived on the scene and the incident remains under investigation.
“We do believe there was an encounter with a victim who was struck and injured, but we do not have all the answers to our questions at this time,” said Buddy Peaster, chief of police for the Office of Public Safety. “We will continue looking into this situation. Not every aspect of the story is really fitting together.”
However, Peaster said campus police are still actively pursuing leads and searching for the suspect.
“It’s unfortunate that in gun-free zones, like the MTSU campus, only criminals have access to firearms,” said Mumphery, who serves as a senator for the College of Behavioral and Health Sciences in the Student Government Association.
“Raiders for the Right to Bear Arms is fighting to allow law-abiding citizens the right to carry on campus in order to protect themselves, in the event an armed gunman attempts to break the law,” he said.
MTSU alumnus Matthew Hurtt, who served as an SGA senator for the College of Liberal Arts, sponsored a resolution in 2007 that would have asked the university’s administration to petition the Tennessee General Assembly to change existing on-campus gun laws.
Although the resolution failed, similar efforts have continued to gain support on campus, most notably through groups like Right to Bear Arms.
“I applaud the organization for raising awareness because I know they are in the early stages of forming the group, and I’m thankful no one was injured,” Hurtt said.
Hurtt said laws imposing gun-free zones adversely affect law-abiding citizens, putting their safety at risk.
“The criminals will break the law anyway,” he said. “If someone wants to rob someone at gunpoint then (that person) will do that without regard to the law.”
Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield of Knoxville sponsored a bill earlier this year that would have allowed university full-time faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons on campus.
In May, it failed to pass through a Senate committee after university officials from across the state lambasted the proposal, including the Association of Campus Law Enforcement.
“We are not proponents of students having mass access to guns on campus,” Peaster said. “There is not a lot of focus on what we can do now to prevent crimes on campus.”
He said the MTSU community should examine what issues contribute to unlawful activities to reach the real goal – crime prevention.
“I am not opposed to responsible gun ownership in general," he said, "but I do have a problem with people overlooking other factors and saying the answer is all about being able to carry a gun.”