Ahead of the start of classes Monday, Liberty University has posted online the details of its new policy allowing students who are concealed-carry permit holders with permission to carry on campus to have guns in dormitories.
It’s the latest in a series of policy changes over the past five years at Liberty to allow greater freedom to carry on campus.
The first change, in 2011, came out of a desire to offer people more opportunities for self-protection in the wake of a mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, President Jerry Falwell Jr. has said.
Under the new policy changes, non-employee students need to apply to Liberty University Police Department for permission to carry on campus, and for gun safes to be installed in their dorm rooms. Students would pay for the installation, programming and removal. Per Virginia law, they must be 21 or older.
“Only students with university-provided and installed safes in their room may carry an approved weapon into residence halls, and each resident assigned to live in such a room must consent to the installation of the safe in their room,” the policy states.
Those students may carry a concealed weapon while moving around in a dormitory, so long as they keep it hidden on their person at all times it is not locked in the safe.
Liberty’s campus weapons policy already granted concealed-carry rights to visitors and approved employees on campus, and allowed eligible students to carry concealed in other campus locations.
Falwell said in an interview this spring he is making the adjustment to help students who have concealed-carry permits but are limited by current university rules to keeping their weapons in the glove compartments of their vehicles, which can be a 15-minute bus ride away on the growing campus.
Reached Thursday, student Jordan Stein said he was satisfied with the newly posted policy. Stein, president of the Students at Liberty for Gun Rights club, emphasized he was sharing just personal opinion, not speaking for the university or anyone except himself.
Stein said the substance of the policy looks similar to suggestions made by himself and members of his group. They’d been raising the issue with students on campus when recruiting for the club.
“I think that got of lot of students thinking and talking about that and saying, ‘Hey our dorms are our weak spot,’” he said.
They promoted the idea that allowing weapons would allow for better defense, and therefore make a location safer.
“We really pushed for it hard last fall, about a year ago,” he said, of the policy change for dorms.
Falwell announced at a convocation gathering in early December he planned to ask the school’s board to allow students to have guns in dormitories. He said at the time some students had emailed him asking for the change, and he mentioned it was inconvenient for some students to store guns in vehicles parked far away.
The week prior, in the wake of a mass shooting in San Bernadino, California, Falwell urged students to consider taking a campus concealed-carry class, and then caused national controversy with comments some critics suggested threatened or vilified Muslims. Falwell has said in context it’s clear he was referring to the recent terrorist attackers, not Muslims in general.
The school’s board of trustees passed a resolution in April letting Falwell make changes to the gun policy, such as the one he’d proposed.
He said then he expected the change to affect few people, since students 21 and older are eligible for permits from the state, and not many 21-year-old students live in dorms on campus. Out of 200 or so students that live in residence halls who might be eligible, he said only about 20 had permits.
The university did not respond by deadline with updated information on numbers of students who would be eligible, had applied or had safes installed.
Stein turned 21 in January and has been working through the requirements to get his concealed-carry permit. He said once he has that, he plans to apply to carry on campus and get a safe to keep a gun in his dormitory.
“I want to have a gun so I can protect myself,” he said. “I want to be able to protect myself at all times.”
He suggested students interested in gun safety could check out his group, which promotes LUPD’s gun safety trainings and also conducts its own classes.
The policy prescribes the following penalties for student rule breakers; in addition to loss of carry privileges and applicable punishment under U.S. law if a law is broken:
“Liberty University students who violate the above provisions of these weapons policy rules and regulations may be subject to 30 misconduct points (and also a $500 fine, 30 hours Disciplinary Community Service, & possible Administrative Withdrawal), or to such other penalties as may be prescribed in the Liberty University Student Honor Code for such misconduct.”