The Student Government Association Senate will consider a piece of legislation Tuesday asking ETSU to allow students to keep guns in their vehicles.

Sen. Brandon Johnson is the co-sponsor of the legislation and said the piece came about because of TCA 39-17-1313, an amendment to the Tennessee state constitution that allows individuals to securely store their weapons in their cars without being punished under state law.

“The first intention of this legislation would be to allow individuals who have a concealed carry permit, not to carry on campus, not to carry in their classrooms, not to carry it in their dorms, not to do anything like that, but simply give them the right to carry it in their car,” Sen. Brandon Johnson said. “Which I think is a pretty reasonable thing.”

Senate reaction

Some senators have reported students having reservations about this legislation.

Sen. Alexis Petrak said many of her constituents expressed concern about this issue.

“The students that I have spoken with have posed many concerns about gun safety,” Petrak said. “A lot of students that I have spoken with have said they would not feel any safer if they were allowed to have guns in their cars mainly because it would open the door for others to have in their car as well.”

Petrak said in particular some students are concerned anyone under the influence of a mind altering drug with access to a gun in their car could potentially pose a threat to students.

“It seems to be that students do not trust other students enough to have a gun on campus,” Petrak said. “I agree fully with the individuals that I have spoken with about this issue.”

ETSU weapons policy

ETSU Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Sherlin said there are laws in place permitting the possession of handguns on private and public property, but there are also university policies related to weapons that campuses have the right to enforce.

“For example, a student who has a carry permit for a gun that’s secured in a vehicle, there’s no crime against that,” Sherlin said. “But on our campus, and I believe all the other TBR [Tennessee Board of Regent] campuses, that would be against university policy because the perspective of the campuses is at this point this is policy and a reduction of weapons on campus makes the campus safer.”

Policy violation

In the event a student, staff member or faculty member is found with a weapon in their car, the faculty or staff member would be referred to human resources and the student would be referred to the student affairs office.

“It goes through our student conduct process, as does other university violations,” said Dean of Students Jeff Howard.

“So, [students] would be charged, and they would have the right to defend themselves in a hearing. And sanctions could be applied if they were found responsible for violating university policy.”

Howard said the office’s disciplinary processes are intended to be educational and the type of sanction enforced depends on the specifics of the incident.

“It really is a case-by-case basis because there are no two incidents that are alike,” Howard said. “The board or hearing officer is going to take into account the person’s response and the person’s statement and any information that’s shared in the hearing as to what sanctions might be applied and which ones are most appropriate.”

Howard said no students have been punished for having a weapon in their vehicle since the state amendment went into effect, and the situation is similar to the prohibition of alcohol on the university campus.