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Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. is encouraging students to carry guns on campus for self-defense

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. is encouraging students to carry guns on campus for self-defense

Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. is encouraging students to carry guns on campus for self-defense

Julie Gilbertsen, Sentry Staff Reporter

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The Virginia annual debate championships were originally to be held at Liberty University, but due various to offensive comments made by Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr., there may have to be a change in plans. Back in December, Falwell made his anti-gun control views public, and even advised his students to carry guns on campus as a means of protection in response to recent Islamic terrorist attacks. He told the students, “let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” them being “those Muslims.” Free gun use and safety classes are now being offered at the university, and have recently become popular. With the increasing fear of terrorist attacks, it makes perfect sense that many individuals would want to protect themselves, but I do not think encouraging students to carry guns everywhere they go is necessarily the best solution.  

Liberty is somewhat of a flagship for the nation’s evangelical Christians; therefore, their actions influence a large group of followers. By announcing that carrying concealed weapons is the only answer, Falwell is misinforming a large group of people that look up to him. Falwell says he is protecting his campus, but he may unintentionally be doing the exact opposite. It is not at all absurd for one to feel unsafe knowing that their classmates and teachers have guns on them at all times. I know I would feel ill at ease by this notion.

Liberty student Kyle Garcia said, “It’s not about Christians waving guns around, it’s about protecting yourselves from some people who want to kill.” I agree with Garcia to an extent: I definitely want to protect myself from people who want to kill. The difference, however, between me and Garcia is that I do not believe encouraging every member of society to get gun permits and carry weapons at all times is the best way to ensure my well being. It is far too easy for the wrong people to get their hands on a gun these days, and Falwell should not be encouraging his students to go out and purchase guns if he does not know whether they are able to handle the responsibility of having such a powerful weapon. More people owning firearms coincides with higher homicide rates, suicides and unintentional fatal shootings. Guns should only be possessed by adults who are fully educated on how and when to use them, not by vulnerable and often irresponsible college students.

It is surprising to me that a Christian college like Liberty that claims to promote “cultural engagement,” peace and unity is at the same time promoting violent behavior to impressionable young adults. Falwell told his students “let’s show them a lesson if they ever show up here,” them being Muslims, apparently. Falwell should be encouraging his students to show respect to other cultures instead of insisting they purchase firearms to protect themselves against them. Falwell is implying that Muslims are unwelcome at Liberty, despite the school’s self-proclaimed accepting and diverse nature.

In the period 2005 to 2015, 71 Americans were killed in terrorist attacks on United States soil, whereas 301,797 were killed by gun violence in the same time frame. While the December shooting in San Bernardino by ISIS supporters Syed Farook and Tasheen Malik provoked nationwide anxiety and justified fear of future terrorist attacks in the United States, gun violence in general still proves to be a much larger threat. Many may not be aware that the guns Farook used in the attack were purchased legally. The devastating mass shooting may have not occurred if stricter gun control laws were in place. Illegally purchasing weapons would still be a concern, but the number of incidents like the one in San Bernardino would be significantly reduced.

A significant issue that has been a topic of discussion is Falwell’s demeaning attitude towards Muslims. He failed to make the distinction between Islamic terrorists and peaceful Muslims when explaining how we needed to protect ourselves from terrorist attacks. Not only did this slur offend Muslims in America, but it also strengthened a common misconception about them. It is unfortunate that such an influential figure as Falwell made such an inappropriate claim about Muslims. There has always been an underlying fear of foreigners in American culture, but the majority of the Muslims being persecuted have lived in the United States their entire lives and have no evil intentions. Grouping Islamic terrorists together with nonviolent Muslims is wrong and although Falwell corrected himself later, he made his objective pretty clear.

The battle over gun control is one that is far from over. Falwell and his colleagues at Liberty have taken their stance on the issue and are exercising their rights for now. Whether these given rights should be changed or kept is a debate that will probably continue for a long time. Guns are a paradoxical object because they are most often purchased for safety reasons, yet are also one of the most feared, life threatening devices. If students and other members of Liberty feel unsafe with guns circulating the campus, than their responses should be respected and taking into consideration by Falwell.  

 

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