MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A new bill would allow some college students to bring guns on campus in Tennessee.

Supporters say students deserve the right to defend themselves, but others caution that the state’s relaxed gun laws are already contributing to violent crime.

Senate Bill 827, sponsored by state Sen. Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) would allow those who have an enhanced handgun carry permit to carry a firearm on college campuses.

“This legislation is to allow college students to carry a weapon to defend themselves on campus. Now they can’t do that and I just feel like, they’re adults and they should be able to defend themselves like everybody in this state and in this country,” Hensley said.

In a Republican caucus release, it said this bill would allow eligible students to carry a gun.

“They (students) can have a weapon up until they get to the college campus,” he said. “They can have one in their vehicle and they can have one when they’re driving to college or school, but once they get on campus they can’t have a weapon to defend themselves.”

In 2021, Tennessee passed permitless carry, which allows anyone 21 years or older that is allowed to legally possess a weapon, to carry handguns in certain places.

State Rep. G.A. Hardaway (D-Memphis) says the relaxing of gun laws has already caused crime problems.
“We’ve seen a direct correlation again between guns in cars being stolen, and the relaxing that we’ve done on actual gun ownership, so we’ve got to get to that,” Hardaway said. “Gun owners need to be responsible for securing weapons.”

The debate over guns on campus recently intensified after the school shooting at Michigan State.    

Hensley says he anticipates opppostion, but believes his bill is needed for college students.

“College campuses can be, they’re big,” he said. “College students having to go from building to building and sometimes in the dark, they should be able to defend themselves.”

At the University of Memphis and possibly other colleges, the talk outside the classroom is about whether people should be allowed to carry firearms on campuses.

“I see both sides of it, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea to be on campus with that type of power of a weapon,” said Travis Cole, a student at the University of Memphis. “But it’s a very hard topic.”

Another U of M student, Brian Kitchen, said he thinks guns on campus, “would be a great idea, as long as you’re legally allowed to be carrying gun and should be able to bring it on campus  to protect yourself.”

Senate Bill 827 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 6, but has not been placed on the calendar, at last check.