By: W. Bennett Brown
Over the river and through the woods, to the shooting range we go.
Similar to Little Red Riding Hood’s unawareness of what lurks in the woods, there are students at Liberty University who are unacquainted with the fact that the school has a shooting range.
“I didn’t know that there was one, until they showed us the gun safety video (at Convocation) about how they have people practice when they are taking those courses, but other than that I don’t know anything about it and hadn’t heard of it,” said sophomore student Nathan Volz.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Liberty University is one of the few college campuses in the U.S. that allows students to conceal carry. Liberty University’s shooting range is a well-used destination for students. Police, faculty and students fire rounds from pistols and rifles on Liberty Mountain every week.
According to Liberty University Police Department (LUPD) sergeant, Andrew Medford, LUPD tries to keep the shooting range open two or more days a week. According to Medford, weekends are usually bigger days for people to learn and practice gun safety at the range.
According to Medford, sometimes different events get in the way of scheduling available times at the range, because officers provide security for events like Scaremare or Liberty football games. When firing a weapon at the range there is one instructor or officer per person.
In order for students and the public to shoot at the range, they must complete a four-hour gun safety course.
On a mid-October Saturday, there were more than 10 students and faculty members practicing firearms safety and completing the safety class. Some of the students were there in order to fulfill requirements regarding the ability to conceal carry on campus.
A junior accounting student, Tyler Seeling, attended the shooting range on this warm Saturday afternoon to get better at shooting and get more instruction from the police officers and guides.
“Gun crazy, absolutely not, Liberty is not gun crazy,” said junior Liberty student, Nathan Northcutt. “I think Liberty is pro-Second Amendment, but Liberty is not gun crazy.”
According to Liberty University’s website, with over 15,000 students on campus, a small percentage of those living on campus are qualified to get a concealed carry weapons permit.
According to Liberty University’s Weapons Policy, the requirements to conceal a gun on campus as a residential student include – being 21 years of age, no criminal record, Virginia Permit, a permit through Liberty University, passing Liberty University’s General Firearms Safety Course, keeping the gun in your car, on your person, or in a gun safe installed by LUPD and consent from the student’s roommates.
“The ability to conceal carry is one of the main reasons why I ended up going to Liberty,” said Northcutt. “I think that at the end of the day you’re the only one who can protect yourself. We live in a very scary world with evil people and when something happens only you are able to protect yourself. Letting students have that right I think it’s a very appropriate and wonderful thing.”
Northcutt is a Virginia State Champion shooter in the category of three-position small-bore shooting.
“I shoot at least three times a week,” said Northcutt. “As far as practice, that may be dry firing. With concealed carrying I draw from my holster from concealment at least 100 times a night before I go to bed, establishing that muscle memory. Being a responsible firearms owner I practice everyday.”
Jordan Stein grew up shooting guns in his rural North Carolinian backyard and has shot at the shooting range on campus. The first and only time Stein shot at the range was when he received his certification for his concealed carry permit.
Stein is a senior at Liberty University and is studying Government Politics and Policy. Stein is the president of the Students at Liberty for Gun Rights club.
“A lot of people think we are a gun club, and don’t get me wrong I love to shoot guns,” said Stein. “I have dozens of them, but we are not a gun club. We do go shooting, but that’s not our main focus.”
Stein started the club in 2013 and according to Stein the group has a membership email list of over 1,000 students.
“We want to get students involved and to know about the Second Amendment and the rights it protects,” said Stein. “The Second Amendment doesn’t give you a right, but it protects a God given right … In the club we oppose all forms of gun control.”
The Students at Liberty for Gun Rights host speakers from organizations such as the Gun Owners of America, the National Rifle Association and other groups. The club also has brought in concealed carry classes to teach gun safety.
Students can access the shooting range by traveling up Candlers Mountain Road and then taking a sharp left turn onto a gravel service road, which is just before the main entrance to Liberty University’s Medical Center.
When visitors attend the shooting range a safety lecture is given before firing any weapons. Josh Bryant, an emergency security officer at Liberty University and an assistant instructor gave the safety speech on this particular day.
The speech follows the guidelines that every firearm should be treated as if it is loaded, and to keep the gun pointed away from others – either towards the ground or down range.
When holding a gun at the range, the participants fire from 7 yards out, and it is important to be aware of what is in front and behind the target.
In order to shoot on the range ear protection, as well as safety glasses must be worn.
The shooting range is typically open from 1 p.m. till dusk. The next scheduled gun safety class is Oct. 24 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
“You do not have to be 21 to take the class, the folks who teach the class say they’ve had kids in the class,” said Stein. “Even if you have absolutely no interest of carrying a gun or ever owning a gun and shooting a gun, but you want to know gun safety in case you see a gun lying on the ground, you should take the class. It’s four hours and it might save your life one day.”
Listen to the audio version of the story below.