Christian University president sparks outrage with call for students to carry concealed weapons

US Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders receives a football jersey from Jerry Falwell Jr (L), president of Liberty University, after addressing students in Lynchburg, Virginia September 14, 2015.Reuters

Jerry Falwell Jr, president of Christian-based Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, is encouraging students to carry concealed weapons on campus for protection, a local newspaper reported.

Falwell made his remarks at the school's weekly convocation on Friday night, according to The News & Advance in Lynchburg.

The comments came two days after a shooting in San Bernardino, California left 14 people dead and in the wake of other shooting sprees in the United States, including some on college campuses.

"It just blows my mind when I see that the president of the United States [says] that the answer to circumstances like that is more gun control," Falwell said.

According to the Washington Post, he continued: "If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now ..." before being interrupted by lcheers. "Is it illegal to pull it out? I don't know," he said, chuckling.

"I've always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in," he says, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause while he was heard saying, "and killed them."

"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."

Liberty University is a noted bastion of conservatism with about 14,500 students taking courses on campus and another 95,000 enrolled online, according to the school's website. Republican presidential candidates in particular regard it as an important stop on their campaign trails, though Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has also spoken there.  

Falwell told The Washington Post that he has had a concealed-carry permit for about a year, but decided for the first time Friday to carry a .25 pistol because of the attacks in San Bernardino on Wednesday.

He said that when he referred to "those Muslims", he was referring to Islamic terrorists, specifically those behind the attacks in Paris and in San Bernardino. "That's the only thing I would clarify," Falwell said. "If I had to say what I said again, I'd say exactly the same thing."

A spokesman for Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe issued a statement condemning Falwell's remarks.

"My administration is committed to making Virginia an open and welcoming Commonwealth, while also ensuring the safety of all of our citizens. Mr Falwell's rash and repugnant comments detract from both of those crucial goals," McAuliffe said. "Those of us in leadership positions, whether in government or education, must take care to remember the tremendous harm that can result from reckless words."

All of the students who live on campus at Liberty University are required to attend its convocation service services, held in a 12,000-seat sports arena. The event is also followed online by thousands of off-campus students.

According to Falwell, his comments have generated the most positive feedback he has ever received for remarks made during convocation. "The support here on campus is almost universal," he said.

Liberty University allows students and faculty members with permits to carry concealed weapons on campus.

In his Washington Post interview Falwell referred to the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech in which 32 people died, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in US history.

"I always wonder, what if one of those professors and students had a concealed weapon and could've ended what happened and saved countless lives?" Falwell said. "I don't understand why it's controversial for law-abiding citizens protecting themselves under the Second Amendment."

He said that students were "tired of being told they're the problem because they have guns and because America is a country that has gun ownership," he said. "They don't hear anybody saying what they believe so when someone finally says something like I did yesterday, they were just hungry to hear it."

Additional reporting by Reuters.