In an effort to help keep students safe in the event of a terrorist attack – as well as to promote gun ownership and firearm sports -- Liberty University is slated to become the first college campus in the United States to launch an on-campus shooting range.
The state-of-the-art complex is slated to debut on the Christian university’s 7,000-acre campus in Lynchburg, Virginia, during the fall 2017 semester. It comes just several months after pro-gun rights President-elect Donald Trump takes over the reins at the White House from pro-gun control President Barack Obama.
Outside the box …
Liberty University Planning and Construction Coordinator Brad Butler says that even though a handful of the hundreds of universities participating in shooting competitions have off-campus shooting facilities, his Virginia campus will be a trend-setter when students will be able to walk from their classes to the innovative, world-class shooting range.
"Around 350 universities in this country participate in some form of shooting competition, and around 30 of those universities own outdoor shooting facilities off campus,” Butler explained, according to the Students at Liberty for Gun Rights blog. “However, Liberty will be the first university to have nationally recognized ranges that meet NRA and NCAA guideline standards and be able to host all Olympic shooting sports on its central campus property "
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr., is excited about his school’s unprecedented move that celebrates Americans’ gun rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution – as opposed to denying those rights as many public have done by becoming gun-free zones.
"This is one of the examples of how Liberty is unique and different," Falwell Jr. impressed during a recent interview with The Washington Post. "We really had the perfect setting for our own competitive shooting range."
Setting the standard
The plans for Liberty’s shooting range were not made public until earlier this month, when specs on the one-of-a-kind facility were revealed.
“Liberty University unveiled the shooting range proposal in a public hearing of Campbell County's Planning Commission on Dec. 5,” The Christian Post announced.” It is expected to feature a 100, 200 and 300-yard rifle range [and] will also boast several shotgun ranges and stands for shooting sports like skeet, trap, five stand and sporting clays.”
According to the Post, Falwell said the new complex will boast the most expansive firearms ranges on any college campus in America – an enterprise that involves construction and landscape improvements costing $1 million.
Students at Liberty for Gun Rights Founder and President Jordan Stein – a 21-year-old senior studying government – maintains that students and faculty alike are anticipating the new edition to campus with eagerness.
"Liberty has a strong passion for the Second Amendment and a great respect for firearms," expressed Stein, who is a native of Asheboro, North Carolina. "It will continue that tradition and teach how to responsibly use firearms and to responsibly use them for good and the defense of others."
All thumbs up
It is reported by the Post that the Christian university has had an increased concentration on security since Falwell assumed his leadership role at Liberty so that students, faculty and staff are able to carry concealed firearms on campus. Because Liberty is a private university, it does not fall under the weight of a Virginia law that prohibits individuals from carrying firearms on public school property.
The university’s head expressed that students’ heightened interest in firearms spurred the plans to develop a new shooting range.
"We have a very pro-Second Amendment student body," Falwell shared.
He also maintained that parents considering Liberty University as the future school for their children have welcomed the campus’ firearms policy with open arms.
"I was a little timid about telling parents about it because I thought some would be worried," Falwell admitted. "But I never got such enthusiastic applause."
Learning from history
A massacre from the not-so-distant past at nearby Virginia Tech – where dozens of students were fatally shot – was partially responsible for motivating Falwell to go ahead with the on-campus shooting range.
“Falwell further explained, however, that one of the reasons for the university's aggressive posture on carrying firearms is to ensure that the campus will be prepared in the event of an ‘active shooter’ situation,” The Christian Post’s Leonardo Blair informed. “He noted that the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech occurred just 85 miles west of Liberty University's campus.”
The university’s leader argued that the decision to make other Virginia universities “gun-free zones” only worked to make them more vulnerable to attacks.
"It's where the terrorists are most likely to strike," Falwell stressed to the Post.
He also noted that families of Liberty students are supportive of having an armed student body due to the fact that they would like to ward off any future attack so that another tragedy – similar to what happened at Virginia Tech nearly a decade ago – would not occur in its campus.
"They don't want to see anything happen here like at Virginia Tech, where nobody was able to fire back," Falwell added.
Corroborating the stance of Falwell – who received his personal concealed-carry permit roughly two years ago, enabling him to take his .25-calibur handgun on campus – Butler is excited that the university is led by someone who makes the safety and well-being of his students a top priority … some who won’t let history repeat itself.
"With president Falwell's bold leadership, we're going to avert something of that magnitude – should evil like that ever come to this campus," Butler concluded.