Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. recently made a push for students to carry guns, suggesting that if the victims of the attack in San Bernardino, California had been armed, they would have been able to fight back.
“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.
Falwell said he began to carry his own .25 pistol after last week’s attack, believed by authorities to be the cause of two individuals who may have been radicalized by the foreign terrorist group ISIS. He went on to say that he meant the term “those Muslims” to stand for Islamic-inspired terrorists.
Residents of the state of Virginia who pass a training course and complete other requirements made by the state can apply for a concealed weapons permit. Students and faculty members of Liberty University are allowed to carry concealed weapons while on campus but not within the residence halls.
During his speech, made at the school’s mandatory convocation, the university president pushed for all students at the school to apply for their own concealed weapons permit. He went on to criticize President Barack Obama, saying it “blows [his] mind” that the president would suggest tighter gun-control laws as a response to the mass shootings.
He added that the school offers a course, free of charge, that shows students how to maneuver the application process for the concealed weapons permit, writes Liam Stack for The New York Times.
Not everyone agreed with Falwell’s comments. The Muslim community, who has experienced an increase in death threats, assaults, and vandalism, argues that suggestions like Falwell’s increases the “toxic atmosphere that American Muslims are dealing with,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group.
Hooper said that hateful behavior toward American Muslims has been on the rise ever since comments made by Donald Trump and Ben Carson, both of whom are seeking the Republican presidential nomination.
“We are seeing the mainstreaming of hate rhetoric targeting Muslims,” Mr. Hooper added. “It is incumbent upon our nation’s political and religious leaders to begin speaking out on rising Islamophobia.”
The FBI recently announced that an investigation into the recent San Bernardino shooting uncovered the incident to be an act of terrorism, partly due to a Facebook post made by one of the suspects, Tashfeen Malik, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group.
Falwell updated his comments to say he only meant to include the Muslims who commit acts of terrorism, adding that, “There are many good Muslims, many good moderate Muslims,” who he would welcome on campus.
He concluded by saying that if he had the chance to do it over, he would say the same comments again, louder.