Liberty University President Jerry Falwell, Jr. urged students to arm themselves by getting their permits to carry concealed weapons while speaking at the convocation Friday, reported the Washington Post. The controversial message pressing students to to carry weapons on campus came on the heels of Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. and also included criticism of President Obama.
“It just blows my mind that the president of the United States [says] that the answer to circumstances like that is more gun control.”
He went on to speculate about “more good people” carrying weapons, including those who were targeted in the San Bernardino mass shooting, but perhaps most alarming was Falwell’s assertion about people of Islamic faith.
“…we could end those Muslims before they walked in… Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here”
His call urging students to arm themselves was met by thunderous applause from the far-right student body in attendance, which included roughly 13,000 of the 14,000-plus students who live on campus, since the three times weekly convocation is mandatory to attend, reported NBC News. Thousands more of Liberty University’s 95,000 online students also watched Falwell urge students to arm themselves.
Despite the support Falwell received from the student body, he met with backlash for his comments from others, including a Liberty University student on social media, which prompted him to take the defensive in a Twitter response.
Still, Falwell remained largely unrepentant after making the inflammatory comments and he retweeted a variety of tweets that supported his views, including one that said “SUCK IT, Muslim extremists” and also provided a link to the weapons course at Liberty University.
In response to the idea presented by some theologians that Jesus would, in fact, urge Christians to lay down their weapons when confronted with violent acts, Falwell turned to the story of Jesus berating the money changers and chasing them out of the temple with a whip, comparing it to war.
“Jesus said ‘Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s,’ and part of that was to go to war, protecting whatever nation was under control of the king.”
Although on the surface the fact that Falwell urged students to arm themselves might seem extreme, the school actually approved a policy in April of 2013 that permits students and faculty members with permits to carry concealed weapons on campus, with the exception of residence halls. However, the death of a 19-year-old Liberty student, who was shot and killed at a dormitory in November of 2013, could foretell what more students with guns could really bring to the table.
The Washington Post also reported that, according to a 2013 Public Religion Research Institute Survey, most of the world’s major religious groups actually favor stricter gun-control laws despite the fact that Falwell urges students to arm themselves. This number reportedly includes an impressive 76 percent of all Protestants, 67 percent of Catholics and 57 percent of “white mainline Protestants.” However, the same study found that white evangelicals, such as those who make up the majority of Liberty University’s student body, are the least likely religious group to support stricter gun laws, coming in at just 38 percent.
Liberty University claims to be the world’s largest Christian university, the largest university in the state of Virginia and the largest private, nonprofit university in the United States. The school regularly hosts politicians – typically Republicans – who hope to attract conservative Christian voters, but Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders broke this stereotype by speaking at Liberty University in mid-September.
In reality, the university’s growth has been largely funded by offering a variety of distance education classes, along with a major expansion in its federal aid programs, which rose from $20 million to more than $800 million each year over the last two decades. Although students of all faiths are purportedly permitted to attend Liberty University, according to Falwell only “15 to 20 students on campus are Muslims,” reported the Washington Post.
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