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Tennessee college campus safety

In response to a disturbing rise in crime rates on college campuses across Tennessee, state lawmakers are taking decisive action to enhance student safety. Recent statistics from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) reveal a nearly 30% increase in campus crime, prompting a serious discussion about practical measures to ensure student security. Against this backdrop, Tennessee state leaders are proposing new legislation aimed at empowering students with safer means of self-defense.

State Representative Gino Bulso (R-Brentwood) has stepped forward with HB 1909, a bill that seeks to authorize the carrying of non-lethal weapons by students on college campuses. This legislative initiative is largely inspired by the harrowing incident in Athens, Georgia, where Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student at the University of Georgia, tragically lost her life. Riley was attacked while jogging on campus and later found deceased in a secluded wooded area. This tragic event has gripped the nation and ignited a fervent call to action among Tennessee lawmakers.

Rep. Bulso, addressing the House Floor, emphasized the bill’s urgency, stating, “Certainly the tragic events that happened in Athens, Georgia, over the past week have demonstrated why legislation such as this is necessary.” He highlighted the senseless murder of Laken Riley as a potent reminder of the vulnerabilities students face and the pressing need for legal provisions that allow for non-lethal self-defense mechanisms on campus.

In the wake of Riley’s death, the sense of vulnerability among students has become palpable. Caroline Holland, a Vanderbilt University student, founded “Chicks with Kicks” as a proactive response to the fear and uncertainty that such incidents evoke. The organization fosters a supportive community where members can share their running plans and invite others to join, ensuring no one has to run alone. Holland’s initiative reflects a broader concern for personal safety, especially in urban environments where the risks are magnified.

The proposed legislation, HB 1909, outlines specific non-lethal weapons that adults could legally carry on college campuses, including:


These measures are not just about enhancing physical security; they also aim to restore a sense of empowerment and confidence among students. As Holland poignantly notes, “It is a really scary world when people feel like they need to have these self-defense items, especially while running because running is supposed to feel empowering.”

Having passed the House on first consideration, the bill is poised for debate in the Senate on Monday, March 11, 2024. As Tennessee lawmakers rally behind this critical issue, the proposed legislation represents a significant step toward reconciling the need for personal safety with the rights of individuals to protect themselves in an increasingly unpredictable world. This initiative underscores the commitment of Tennessee’s legislative body to create a safer, more secure environment for all students, ensuring that the pursuit of education does not come at the cost of personal safety and well-being.

In the final analysis, the passage of HB 1909 stands as a crucial stride towards empowering students with the autonomy to safeguard their own well-being on college campuses across Tennessee. This legislation not only acknowledges the unnerving increase in campus crimes but also responds with a pragmatic and compassionate solution that arms students with the means to protect themselves without resorting to lethal force. By advocating for the right to carry non-lethal self-defense tools, Tennessee lawmakers are championing a future where students do not have to choose between their education and their safety.

As this bill moves forward, it embodies a collective aspiration for a learning environment rooted in security, freedom, and peace of mind. Let us rally behind HB 1909, recognizing it as a pivotal step in nurturing a culture of preparedness, resilience, and mutual respect among the student body, thereby ensuring that the pursuit of knowledge remains a safe, inviolable right for everyone.

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