I sometimes help out with logistics when Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn is traveling for a speech or a debate. I’m used to people asking me what hotel chains Barry prefers or what he likes to eat, but in September when Barry was debating Religious Right attorney Mat Staver at Liberty University, I got a question I hadn’t heard before: The folks at Liberty wanted to know if Barry or anyone traveling with him would be armed. The school had no objection to Barry or a member of his party carrying a concealed weapon, they just wanted to know beforehand.
I’ll admit I was a little taken aback. I guess I shouldn’t have been. Nor am I surprised by recent comments by Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr., who has recommended that students at the school carry concealed weapons so “we could end those Muslims before they walk in and kill.”
It’s always disturbing to hear someone who holds himself out to be a Christian leader speak so casually of killing others, and Falwell has admitted that he could have used less inflammatory language. As President Barack Obama reminded the nation last night, it’s terrorists we’re fighting, not all Muslims.
Falwell’s comments came in the wake of the recent mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., where a married couple murdered 14 people and wounded many more. It has since been revealed that the couple, who were Muslims, were likely radicalized and had become enamored of the terrorist group ISIS.
Gun control is not a church-state issue, and Americans United takes no stand on it. I’m sure that some of our members own guns for sport and self-defense. I also know that responsible gun owners (like my late father, who was an avid hunter) recognize the importance of proper firearms training.
In Virginia, people seeking concealed-carry permits aren’t required to demonstrate any proficiency with a weapon or even show that they know how to use one. They can go to a shooting range and learn to use a weapon if they like, but there is another option: They can take a gun safety course online and pass a short test. This can be done in as little as 10 minutes without ever touching a gun. A number of companies offer these classes for a small fee, and they pretty much guarantee that anyone can pass.
Think about this for a minute: Falwell is essentially urging young people who may have had no training in firearms to buy guns and wear them around campus in case Muslim terrorists attack.
Now think about this: In San Bernardino, Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik wore body armor and were armed with high-power, semi-automatic assault rifles. What chance would a 21-year-old student with a handgun that he or she may have rarely if ever used stand against them?
In cop shows and movies, clever heroes often overcome impossible odds, outwit terrorists and save the day. In real life, you’re much more likely to end up getting mowed down. Only a very foolish person would confuse big-screen fantasy with real-world outcomes.
My son is a high-school senior and is applying to colleges for the fall. Of course Liberty University was never on his list, but as we’ve gone through the process, I’ve talked with a lot of parents who are diligently helping their kids find just the right school.
I don’t know if any of them are looking at Liberty for their sons and daughters, but if they are, they might want to reconsider. I hear the president there is a bit of a bigot – and rather ill-informed to boot.