Liberty University recently amended its school policy to allow qualified students the option to carry concealed weapons on campus and in the classroom amid the growing national debate of gun control throughout the nation.
The change in school policy became effective in March and will permit students, faculty, staff as well as visitors to carry concealed weapons while on campus.
Those wishing to exercise their right will still have to obtain a state-sponsored concealed weapons permit and follow all applicable state laws in order to do so. The conservative university insisted that the change was based on nothing other than student safety.
"I think it's good that Liberty is a little more open than some schools, and I think it'll continue to create a higher level of security on campus than what was found at Virginia Tech," Jerry Falwell Jr., Liberty's president and chancellor, recently told the News & Advance.
While those who can legally possess a firearm on campus can do so, there are still restrictions on individuals who may pose a danger to themselves or to others.
Individuals on probation, students who violate any academic or honor codes, or a person who has been arrested or charged with "assault, battery, stalking, crime of violence, or a felony," would not be permitted to carry concealed weapons on campus.
While concealed weapons will be permitted around campus and in campus buildings, concealed weapons will still not be allowed in residential halls and dorms. However, residence hall directors will be allowed to possess guns in the dorms.
The push for student safety on campus was led by Josh Hetzler, a law student at the university, whose motivation was to give anyone on campus the opportunity to defend and protect themselves should a situation present itself.
"Students ought to have the ability to protect themselves," Hetzler told WDBJ. "We've seen a number of instances here in the nation recently were schools are particularly vulnerable. They're gun free zones, except that the bad guys still get the guns."
The new policy change comes at a time when the longtime conservative university has been accused of being too "liberal" for not maintaining their traditional Christian foundation in the face of avocation for changing certain longstanding social institutions. But, Falwell Jr. is convinced that Liberty is honoring its stated mission of exemplifying Christian morals and teachings.
"Liberty doesn't have any position on any political issue, but it is a fact that we do attract a group of very conservative students, mainly on the social issues," Falwell previously told The Christian Post.
"Liberty is determined to be the first university to achieve prominence in academics, athletics, facilities, but to remain true to our Christian mission of training champions for Christ and honoring the fundamentals of the Christian faith," Falwell added.
Liberty University is a Christian institution that was founded by evangelist Jerry Falwell and currently has a student enrolment of 74,000, which includes 62,000 registered for online courses.