LYNCHBURG, Va. — Liberty University will soon end a rule that prohibits students from bringing firearms into residence halls, the school’s president said Wednesday in what he described as a measure to increase campus safety.
President Jerry Falwell Jr. made the announcement here to a gathering of several thousand students at the evangelical Christian school, drawing heavy applause. On Friday, Falwell had urged eligible students to get training from school authorities to enable them to obtain a permit to carry concealed weapons.
He said that if more people carry concealed weapons at Liberty, it would help the school deter attacks such as the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., that left 14 people dead and more wounded.
“I take very seriously my responsibility to keep you safe in an increasingly dangerous world,” Falwell said.
As he spoke, Falwell was carrying a small pistol in his back pocket, which he later showed to a reporter.
Liberty has allowed students, faculty and staff — who have the proper state permits — to carry concealed guns on campus since 2011, Falwell said, a measure taken in response to the 2007 massacre at nearby Virginia Tech. He obtained a permit himself in 2013.
Under Virginia law, residents may obtain a concealed-carry permit if they are 21 or older. About 950 people at Liberty now have concealed-carry permits, Falwell said. He said hundreds more in recent days have signed up for a training course to get a permit.
“I want to applaud you and thank you for taking steps to make our campus even more safe,” Falwell said. Liberty’s rule change in 2011 allowed permit holders to bring guns into all buildings on campus except residence halls, Falwell said. Students who lived in residence halls and owned guns were required to store them in cars or other secure areas.
After his remarks Friday, which stirred controversy as the nation debates gun rights and gun control, Falwell said he received many messages of support from the campus community. He said he also received requests via email to lift the gun ban in residence halls for students who hold permits. He said he has heard that parking lots are too distant from some of the school’s new dormitories, and students who hold permits were worried about that distance, he said.
“So we’re making that change at your request,” he said. Falwell said he expects Liberty’s board will approve the change in coming days. “We must also look out for each other, report suspicious activity and be alert,” Falwell said.
Quincy Thompson, 22, Liberty’s student body president, who is majoring in pastoral leadership, said after Farwell’s address that he and most students on campus support Falwell’s view.
“I believe we have the safest college campus in America,” Thompson said. “We also have students who have been given the opportunity to defend themselves.” Thompson said he does not have a concealed-carry permit but is thinking about getting one next semester.