LYNCHBURG, Va. — Liberty University, which heralds itself as the world’s largest Christian university, is set to become the first educational institution in the nation to open an on-campus firing range.
“We have a very pro-Second Amendment student body,” President Jerry Falwell told the Washington Post this week.
He said that one of the reasons for the shooting range is because he believes those with malicious intent are more likely to carry out their attacks at facilities that are marked as “gun free zones.”
“It’s where the terrorists are most likely to strike,” Falwell stated. “[Students and their families] don’t want to see anything happen here like at Virginia Tech, where nobody was able to fire back.”
This week, Liberty applied for a permit to begin construction on what it called a “nationally recognized, full-scale shooting, training and competition center.” The 13,000 square-foot facility will have pistol, rifle and shotgun areas, as well as outdoor archery and skeet shooting spaces, and will cost at least $1 million to construct.
School officials discussed their ideas with the National Rifle Association before proceeding with plans.
Students with concealed carry permits are currently allowed to have guns on campus, and for the past year, Liberty University has offered a free firearms course, which it states has enrolled 1,600 thus far.
However, as previously reported, Falwell generated criticism over his mindset about firearms last December when he made comments about “ending [murderous] Muslims” in light of the San Bernardino massacre in California. He urged students to obtain concealed carry permits so that they would be ready to take out Muslims intent on bloodshed should they show up at Liberty University.
“I’ve always thought, if more good people had concealed carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in and killed them,” Fawell stated to the student body, receiving unreserved applause.
“I just wanted to take this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a free course,” he said. “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here.”
He went on to reTweet social media posts in support of his remarks, including one that read, “S*CK IT, Muslim extremists,” adding a link to the school’s gun course.
Falwell’s comments especially raised concern among members of the Fairfax County School Board, which urged the Virginia High School League (VHSL) to discontinue hosting state championships at Liberty University.
“We are deeply disturbed by the comments of Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. … urging more than 10,000 of his assembled students to obtain handguns and stating that ‘we could end those Muslims before they walked in,’” it said in a letter in April.
While the League did ultimately pull out of Liberty, it said it was for financial reasons and not due to the board’s letter.