Liberty University is planning to open a state-of-the-art shooting range on campus next fall as part of the conservative Evangelical Christian School’s commitment to promoting gun ownership and firearm sports.
University president Jerry Falwell Jr. said that Liberty’s new complex will feature pistol, rifle and shotgun facilities as well as an archery range built into the mountainside of the 7,000-acre campus near Lynchburg, Va. Falwell said the project will result in one of the most expansive firearms ranges on any U.S. college campus. The blueprints call for at least $1 million in construction and landscape improvements that will provide new opportunities for student clubs and athletic teams.
“This is one of the examples of how Liberty is unique and different,” Falwell said in an interview. “We really had the perfect setting for our own competitive shooting range.”
The shooting range will be the latest high-tech addition to a campus that already features a year-round snowless ski and snowboard center, an indoor ice-skating rink and an equestrian facility.
Founded in 1971 by Falwell’s father, an evangelical pastor who nurtured the Moral Majority political movement, Liberty has risen to become the epicenter of Christian higher education and is now one of the largest universities in the country by enrollment, buffeted by a surging online program.
The university, under Falwell, has increased its focus on public safety, and it has allowed students, faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns on campus. Last year he established a free course for those interested in earning a Virginia concealed carry permit. Virginia prohibits the carrying of firearms on public school property, but because Liberty is a private university it is exempt from that law. More than 1,600 people have taken the course at Liberty, Falwell said. But just 20 students — out of the 8,000 who live on campus — have received the proper documentation from the state police to carry a concealed weapon, he said.
Falwell said that the concept for the new shooting range came from student interest in firearms. He noted that one of the more vibrant and engaged student groups on campus is dedicated to safeguarding the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
“We have a very pro-Second Amendment student body,” Falwell said.
Falwell said that he was nervous when he first spoke about the school’s firearms policy at a gathering for parents whose children were considering Liberty for their higher education.
“I was a little timid about telling parents about it because I thought some would be worried,” Falwell said. “But I never got such enthusiastic applause.”
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