The president of Liberty University, a popular pilgrimage site for presidential candidates, urged students during the school's convocation on Friday to get their permits to carry concealed weapons.
In his remarks, President Jerry Falwell Jr., son of the late religious right leader Jerry Falwell Sr., pressed students at the Christian school in Lynchburg, Va. to carry weapons on campus following Wednesday's mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.
"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 said to applause.
"If some of those people in that community center had what I have in my back pocket right now . . .," he said while being interrupted by louder cheers and clapping. "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, "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."
Falwell told the Washington Post on Saturday that he has had a concealed-carry permit for about a year, but decided for the first time on Friday to carry a .25 pistol because of the attacks in San Bernardino on Wednesday. Falwell said he has had several shotguns, rifles, and pistols on his farm for several years but is new to carrying a concealed weapon and needs to find a holster for his pistol.
He said his comments have generated the most positive comments he has ever received for remarks made during convocation. "The support here on campus is almost universal," he said. Students of all faiths can attend Liberty, and Falwell estimated that about 10 or 15 students on campus are Muslim.
Falwell 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."
Liberty University's convocation service, held three times a week in a 12,000-seat sports arena, is mandatory for those who live on campus and is also watched by thousands of its 95,000 online students.
Some theologians believe that Jesus would call on Christians to put down their weapons in the face of violence. In response, Falwell referenced the story from the gospels of Jesus chasing money changers out of the temple with a whip.
"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," Falwell said. "I wouldn't agree with any interpretation of Scripture that was used to say that a man or a woman shouldn't protect their families."
Falwell noted the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. 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."
Falwell said the overwhelming support he has received from students comes from the frustration that they don't feel represented in the national conversation about gun violence.
The sheriff of Ulster County, N.Y., takes a stand similar to Falwell's. Sheriff Paul J. Van Blarcum said in a statement a day after the California shootings: "In light of recent events that have occurred in the United States and around the world I want to encourage citizens of Ulster County who are licensed to carry a firearm to PLEASE DO SO."
Van Blarcum's statement was posted to his office's Facebook page.
Ulster County District Attorney D. Holley Carnright called the sheriff "thoughtful and direct" but said caution should be exercised.