Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr. urged more students to carry guns on Friday, arguing that if the victims of Wednesday’s attack in San Bernardino, California were armed, they would have been able to protect themselves from the attackers.
“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them,” he said during the school’s convocation, before teasing the students about his own gun.
“If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now…,” he said. “Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he joked, to laughter and loud applause. “I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
Falwell later told the Washington Post that he decided to carry a .25 pistol following Wednesday’s attack, which authorities are ascribing to two individuals who may have been radicalized by the foreign terrorist group ISIS. The son of the late religious leader Jerry Falwell Sr. also clarified that his reference to “those Muslims” was short hand for Islamic-inspired terrorists. “That’s the only thing I would clarify,” Falwell told the Post. “If I had to say what I said again, I’d say exactly the same thing.”
Virginia residents who complete training and satisfy state requirements may apply for a concealed weapons permit. Students and faculty members at Liberty University may carry concealed weapons on campus but not in the residence halls. The Christian college is closely aligned with conservative politics, but is at odds with major religious groups, who overwhelmingly favor stricter gun safety measures.
Research also shows that armed civilians are unable to successfully intervene in mass shootings and that higher gun ownership actually correlates with higher instances of firearm-related deaths. One recent study found that for “every 1 percent increase in gun ownership, there was a 1.1 percent increase in the firearm homicide rate and a 0.7 percent increase in the total homicide rate.”