If concealed weapons were allowed on campus, students and faculty alike have expressed concerns about the preservation of UT's learning environment.
Previous Senate Bill 239 proposed by Rep. Stacey Campfield (R - Knoxville) in 2011 would have allowed "full-time faculty and members of the staff at any public post-secondary institution in this state who have a valid handgun carry permit ... to carry handguns at all times on the premises of the public postsecondary institution in which they are employed."
University administrators from public universities across the state of Tennessee composed an official statement for lawmakers expressing their dissatisfaction with the bill.
But it's not just administrators who have concerns with the bill. Students and faculty alike have expressed concerns about the preservation of UT's learning environment if concealed weapons were allowed on campus.
Lisa Dicker, a junior in political science and Asian studies, feels uncomfortable with such a change. She believes guns should only be carried by campus police.
"I don't believe that more guns on campus means a safer environment," said Dicker. "It allows for more mistakes and small incidents to occur with no real evidence that it would prevent a large scale assault on a school. Despite high profile events, school campuses, the vast majority of which are gun-free, remain some of the safest places in our country with very few homicides or gun-related incidents."
Dicker feels as though additional weapons would be "a detriment to the learning environment." She is not alone.
Fellow student Tyler Dinwiddie, senior in sociology, agrees with this sentiment. Dinwiddie stated that weapons should remain "only in the hands of qualified, trained officers." Many students do not feel comfortable with the idea of students or faculty carrying weapons.
UTPD Chief Troy Lane relayed the gun policy that UT espouses.
"The University of Tennessee is opposed to allowing any type of weapon to be carried on campus with the belief that these items are not conducive to a positive learning environment," Chief Lane said.
"The University of Tennessee has stated its opposition to allowing anyone other than law enforcement officers to carry guns while on campus," UT President Joe DiPietro said. "The current law works. There is no need to change it. A primary priority of the university is the safety and security of our students, faculty and staff. This responsibility is taken seriously, and campuses work with law enforcement officials to take measures to create the safest environment possible. We agree with law enforcement that campuses will not become safer with more guns."
Several UT students expressed their dislike of the previous bill.
"In 2011, I wrote my state representatives voicing my concerns regarding the bill proposed by Sen. Campfield which would have allowed college faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons," said Dicker.
Fear is growing within the campus community that a similar bill will be proposed in the near future due to the Sandy Hook shooting in December.
"In the wake of the most recent school shooting incident, I do believe that the subject of guns on campuses will be revisited," said Dicker. "I hope that the decisions that result from this discussion are based on rationality and not fear."
Students like Dicker would rather legislators focus on taking alternative prevention techniques more than promoting guns.
"Faculty and staff on campuses should also be trained in recognizing possible mental health issues in students and colleagues and have clear venues to report this," Dicker said. "Finally, schools should have well-trained campus police or a school resource officer, depending on the size of the school."
Similarly, Ben Wagner, senior in psychology, argues that preventing potential shootings lies more within mental awareness than gun control.
"We need to take necessary precautions to ensure that we understand what is happening with these individual's lives or perhaps enable teachers to have some more input if they think some disturbed behavior going on because parents don't get to see their kids all day during school," Wagner said. "All of this needs to be taken into consideration for everyone's safety coupled with gun control laws."
At the end of the day, the university is interested in preempting any type of violence.
"It's no longer an argument about allowing your students to come packing to school, but to prevent such tragedy from happening," Wagner said.