As state lawmakers consider legislation that would permit guns to be stored in vehicles on private property, area police chiefs are lobbying against the idea, including East Tennessee State University’s head of public safety.
The Tennessee House and Senate each have bills designed to permit licensed individuals to store guns in their private vehicles in the parking lots of employers and the driveways of private citizens.
Collectively, these bills are known as the Guns in Parking Lots legislation. If passed, students, employees and others would be allowed to have guns in their cars at ETSU, said Jack Cotrel, the school’s public safety chief.
“We just feel that these bills would sanction things that could jeopardize and threaten the campus safety,” Cotrel said.
Cotrel was in Nashville Thursday along with other chiefs of police from around the state to essentially lobby against the legislation and bring their concerns to lawmakers.
Cotrel said he thinks such legislation would increase the number of guns on campus and create an environment that would not be conducive to the free exchange of ideas that can sometimes be passionately debated.
He also said the number of guns on campus would increase as a result of this legislation, which will in turn increase the potential for problems on campus that his officers would have to deal with.
“I don’t think you could think it wouldn’t” increase problems, Cotrel said.
Dalton Collins, ETSU Student Government Association president, said he was “100 percent against” the legislation.
“I think this opens the door for more guns to show up on our campus,” he said. “Not to say that people don’t have guns in their cars now on campus, but if they are caught now with a gun in their car on campus there’s a law in place to punish them.”
The SGA has not given an opinion on the “Guns in Parking Lots” legislation.
“I expect the SGA will take a formal stance on this in the coming days,” Collins said.
Most students Collins has spoken to have been opposed to the legislation.
The Senate bill was scheduled to head to the Senate Calendar Committee after passing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The House companion bill was scheduled to be heard Thursday in the House Consumer & Employee Affairs sub-committee.