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Liberty University students urged to carry guns. Do other schools agree?

The president of Liberty University urged his students Friday to carry concealed firearms on campus, adding to diverse university rhetoric on the issue of gun control. 

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    In this April 21, 2015, file photo, Liberty University president, Jerry Falwell Jr., gestures during an interview at the school in Lynchburg, Va. Virginia's governor is criticizing Falwell for urging his Christian college community to arm itself against a possible attack by a would-be mass killer. Falwell made the suggestion at a gathering of 10,000 on the Lynchburg campus on Friday, Dec. 4.
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In a school-wide address, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. urged his students Friday to carry concealed weapons on campus in an effort to “end those Muslims.”

“I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in,” Falwell said. 

Although Falwell acknowledged to The News & Advance that “There are many good Muslims, many good moderate Muslims,” he also said the press interpreted his comments correctly. “If I had to say it again,” he told The New York Times, “I would say it louder because it was hard to hear with the students talking.”

Located in Lynchburg, Va., Liberty is the largest Christian university in the world with a resident student population over 14,000 and almost 100,000 online students. Founded in 1971 by Falwell’s father, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Liberty prides itself on its evangelical ideals. 

While Falwell’s comments Friday illustrate one end of the spectrum in the guns-on-campus debate, college campuses across the country have been struggling with the question of open carry in the classroom. And as more university leaders voice their opinions, its clear they are sometimes out of line with the larger views of their resident states.  

In Texas, lawmakers made concealed weapons on campuses legal beginning in 2016, but many universities in the state are opting out, The Christian Science Monitor’s Annika Fredrikson reports. Leaders at Rice, Baylor, Trinity and Texas Christian University have already voiced their decision not to comply with the state’s policy.

Whereas Oregon, voted the fifth most liberal state in a 2015 Gallup poll, has witnessed mounting support for concealed carry laws by university leaders. In 2011, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that those with permits to carry concealed guns were permitted to do so on the grounds of college campuses. 

Ranked the most conservative of all 50 states by the same 2015 Gallup poll, Mississippi universities might prove to be the greatest contradiction of state stereotypes.

Delta State University, where a shooting in September left two professors dead, enacted campus laws that render open carry basically impossible. Although concealed carry is legally permitted on campus per state law, the university’s administers enacted "gun free zones" throughout the university. “For a concealed carrier interested in keeping his firearm holstered throughout the day would be unnecessarily dissuaded from doing so” because of the maze of gun-free zones, argues the organization USA Carry. 

Virginia residents are permitted to purchase a shotgun at the age of 18 and a handgun at 21 after completing a permit application process. Met with cheering and applause, Falwell told his students: “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.” 

But Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe criticized Falwell's remarks.

“My administration is committed to making Virginia an open and welcoming Commonwealth, while also ensuring the safety of all of our citizens. Mr. Falwell’s rash and repugnant comments detract from both of those crucial goals,” Gov. McAuliffe told The Washington Post in a statement. 

“Those of us in leadership positions, whether in government or education, must take care to remember the tremendous harm that can result from reckless words.”

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