RICHMOND, Va. — Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. urged students, staff and faculty at his Christian school to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon on campus to counter any copycat attack like the deadly rampage in California just days ago.
“Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” Falwell told an estimated 10,000 of the campus community at convocation Friday in Lynchburg. While Falwell’s call to arms was applauded, his remarks also seemed to target Muslims.
“I’ve always thought if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in .,” Falwell said. The final words of his statement could not be clearly heard on a videotape of the remarks.
However, Falwell told The Associated Press on Saturday he was specifically referring to Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the husband and wife who shot and killed 14 people at a holiday party in San Bernardino on Wednesday.
Falwell’s remarks generated a sharp rebuke from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who called the comments “reckless.”
“My administration is committed to making Virginia an open and welcoming Commonwealth, while also ensuring the safety of all of our citizens,” McAuliffe said in a statement issued late Saturday. “Mr. Falwell’s rash and repugnant comments detract from both of those crucial goals.”
Falwell also said he believed the campus needed to be prepared in the face of the increasing frequency of mass killings. He cited, for example, the 2007 massacre of 32 people at Virginia Tech, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and less than 100 miles southwest of Liberty.
“What if just one of those students or one of those faculty members had a concealed permit and was carrying a weapon when the shooter walked into Virginia Tech? Countless lives could have been saved,” he said.
Falwell’s message is apparently being heeded. He said more than 100 people had asked Liberty police about a free class to obtain a permit to carry a concealed weapon.
Liberty was founded by Jerry Falwell Sr., who was among the nation’s first conservative cultural warriors. The Moral Majority founder’s barbed commentary on contemporary matters such as gay Americans made him a reviled figure to some and a pioneering conservative crusader to others.
Following the San Bernardino shootings, which left 14 dead, Falwell said he began carrying a .25-caliber handgun in his back pocket. He said he’s had a permit for more than year.
During his address Friday, Falwell mentioned the weapon and reached around seemingly to fetch it.
“Is it illegal to pull it out? I don’t know,” he said, laughing, drawing some hoots from the audience.
Asked if he was concerned by the prospect of thousands of armed young people on campus, Falwell said Virginia has a minimum age of 21 for a carry-conceal permit. He said that meant only older students would be armed.
More than 14,000 students are enrolled at Liberty.
Falwell said he had also reached out to a first responder in San Bernardino to see if the school could offer scholarship assistance to his children.
Falwell’s remarks were first reported by the News & Advance.