Tyler Waide, Kentucky's director of Students for Concealed Carry, recalled having a conversation with his professor about concealed weapons on campus.
"My teacher said she didn't support it. She said, 'What if I gave a student a bad grade and they shoot me?'"
Waide said he responded, "What's stopping him from doing that now? I can stop that mad man from hurting you and the class."
Members of the Students for Concealed Carry chapter at the University of Kentucky set up shop with a table and banners and handed out fliers in front of Starbucks on campus Tuesday to protest UK's prohibition of guns on campus. They all wore empty holsters to symbolize their efforts.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
"Our basic goal is to get legislation passed through the state legislature to prevent public universities from telling students with concealed permits that they cannot carry weapons on campus," said Waide, 22. "Our goal is to get attention and to get our mission out."
The student organization was started in 2007 after the Virginia Tech shooting to advocate for students, faculty and staff to be allowed to carry weapons on campus if they have concealed carry permits. UK's chapter started soon after, said Waide.
"UK is a big campus," said Waide, who said he is a licensed instructor for a weapons course. "It's 30,000 students, and we are going to need a big resounding voice to affect change at the state legislature."
They are making progress, he said. The organization's Facebook page has doubled — it had 560 likes as of Tuesday night — since the first meeting, and Waide said he thinks it's going to take a big social media push to bring change nationally.
Chisum Kirby, 20, who was helping pass out fliers, said the response time for police hinders campus safety. "What is the response time for the police? Three minutes? It takes three seconds to get stabbed," Kirby said.
Deadly weapons are not allowed on any property owned, leased or controlled by the university, which includes classrooms, residence halls and laboratories.
In 2009, UK graduate student and employee Michael Mitchell was fired because he had a gun in his car. He later filed a lawsuit against UK claiming his firing violated the state and federal right to bear arms.
The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that Mitchell was wrongfully fired, and that students and staff at Kentucky's public universities may keep guns and other weapons in cars. But the schools may continue to regulate them elsewhere on campus.
UK spokesman Jay Blanton said the university's policy has been the same for years: "no one is allowed to carry a weapon on campus."
"That recommendation was offered years ago from safety officials and police to safeguard the campus," Blanton said.
Blanton said the university's policy is a blanket one that respects everyone and safeguards campus. He added that the university supports diverse views, including those held by the student organization.
"We deeply respect that students have differing points of views on issues, including this one," Blanton said. "And, as importantly, we respect that they are able to demonstrate and promote those views in a respectful and civil manner. It's a shared value at the University of Kentucky and one we celebrate."