Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. is hosting the Virginia High School League state debate championships this weekend, an annual event aimed at crowning the best debaters from across the commonwealth in a centrally located college campus. But not all the teams are going to show up, some of them openly boycotting the university, saying they are concerned that it is not welcoming to Muslims, based largely on comments attributed to the school’s president, Jerry Falwell Jr.

In the following commentary, Falwell answers those critics, saying that his comments were taken out of context, and he also defends the school’s campus carry law, which he argues makes the school safer because members of the community would have the ability to stop a violent attack with their own firearms.

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By Jerry Falwell Jr.

When I spoke to Liberty University students last December to express my concern for the victims of the San Bernardino, Calif., shooting that occurred just days before and to share with them how Liberty was reaching out to help the families with future scholarship assistance, I spent a good deal of time discussing the radical Islamic terrorists responsible for that heinous attack. It was clear to all in attendance that when I said, “if more good people [obtained their concealed carry permits and carried a gun], we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed,” I was only referring to the Muslim terrorists who attacked innocents in San Bernardino and in Paris, France. I was in no way referring to the many good and honorable Muslims who do not come into public spaces armed to kill innocents.

I could not have made it more clear.

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But the media missed it.

Several news reports only used part of the quote above, with no context to the scope of my remarks. As the dishonest reporting continued, groups of people began to form opinions of our institution based on those articles — groups like high school debate teams who have chosen not to participate in a Virginia High School League state tournament hosted on our campus.

Like other universities do, Liberty hosts a number of events for outside organizations, businesses, and schools simply because we have the facilities that can accommodate them. It is a form of community service by Liberty and, because we are centrally located in the state, our campus is a good option for state events.

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The decision of some debate teams to not participate has very little impact on Liberty’s operation. While we welcome our guests, we do not benefit from their stay as much as they benefit from the use of our facilities.

Our guests can certainly take the opportunity while they are here to explore our campus and learn more about what we offer, but our Enrollment Management team found many years ago that VHSL events and other events not related to Liberty or its programs of study attract students who are much less likely to attend Liberty than those students who attend Liberty recruitment events on campus (such as College for a Weekend or Friendly Fridays). Events hosted by VHSL and Boys State, for example, were never intended to recruit students to Liberty and never resulted in any measurable enrollment.

It is my understanding that some groups who are opposed to visiting our campus are basing their decision on Liberty’s concealed carry policy. The policy, in place since 2011, states that individuals over 21 who have qualified for concealed carry permits and granted such permits by the state of Virginia (as well as received permission through the Liberty University Police Department) are allowed to carry concealed weapons on campus.

As the president of a university community of nearly 15,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, I take very seriously my responsibility to keep our campus safe in an increasingly dangerous world. The concealed carry policy has worked well for us. A quick Internet search of “safest colleges in America” will reveal that Liberty is in the top 20 of every list.

Some colleges and universities in Virginia have chosen to ban concealed carry, and we believe that those universities have created more dangerous environments for their students, faculty, and staff.

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Liberty’s Board of Trustees approved the concealed carry policy not because of Islamic terrorism, but because of what happened nine years ago at a neighboring institution only a couple hours away. More than 30 innocent students and faculty were murdered viciously at Virginia Tech and none of them had the ability to protect themselves.

Campus police simply cannot be everywhere all the time. Having additional responsible adults with concealed weapons throughout campus increases the likelihood that someone might be able to stop an attacker like the one at Virginia Tech, before dozens of innocent lives are lost. I’m proud that Liberty was one of the only schools to take that position initially and now dozens nationally have followed suit.

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