Campus Carry: A Breakdown of the Controversial Texas Law

Understanding the Controversial Campus Carry Law

Posted by Shelley Kilpatrick on 11 February 2016 |

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Campus Carry Laws in Texas

campus carry texasRight now, the spotlight is on Texas as new gun laws go into effect, with the biggest changes coming to higher education campuses on Aug. 1, 2016.

Senate Bill 11, also referred to as campus carry, allows people with concealed handgun licenses to bring their weapons with them throughout campus—including dorms and classrooms. The Chronicle of Higher Education offers more details stating that the law applies to private four year colleges, too, but they can opt out, and that the law will apply to community colleges in 2017.

On the University of Texas’s website, are more details regarding the specifics of carrying concealed handguns on campus:

  • The law does not allow open carry on campus
  • A person must be 21 to obtain a concealed handgun license
  • License holders have been allowed to carry on campus—but not in buildings—since 1995
  • The law doesn’t affect fraternity, sorority or private residential buildings
  • It’s still a crime for a license owner to carry a concealed handgun while intoxicated

Also, the law gives the university the power to designate a limited number of gun-free areas. This has created a bit of confusion, so Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton gave more clarification.

His statements make it clear that while the university can set some rules and regulations and designate gun-free areas, it cannot outright ban or create rules that have the effect of banning people licensed to carry concealed weapons.

Finally, individual professors cannot prohibit people carrying a concealed handgun from class. Neither can they force them to sit in the back of the classroom.

At this time, universities are working on developing policies around the law. For example, the University of Texas at San Antonio’s (UTSA) website states, “UTSA is exploring specific rules, regulations and procedures related to campus carry and develop policies that could include items such as identifying potential gun-free zones, creating appropriate signage, determining if and where lock-boxes or storage units should be installed, and conducting public education programs.”

Positive and Negative Reactions to the Laws

Reactions to the law have been both positive and negative, and the debate over the campus carry law has continued for months. Some people feel the law will help make higher education campuses safer, while others feel it will have the opposite effect.

For example, Javier Auyero, UT professor of Latin American sociology, wrote an article for The Conversation expressing his concerns about the campus carry law. In the article, he states that allowing concealed handguns in university buildings makes him uneasy because students should not get used to guns in the classroom.

Auyero also states that the campus carry law hurts the university from a recruitment stance; less people will want to attend a university that allows guns in classrooms.

On the other side of the debate, Antonia Okafore, a graduate student studying public policy at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) believes that students should have the right to defend themselves with concealed handguns in the event of an active shooter on campus.

A group of university leaders think this divide will make everyone unhappy once gun policies are officially set.

According to the Dallas Morning News in a session in front of the state senate, University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven stated he fears whichever rules are adopted, whether it’s at UT or another Texas campus, “will be subjected to legal challenges through lawsuits filed by persons on one side or the other of the debate.”

Conclusion

For the moment, it’s impossible to know exactly how the concealed carry laws will impact Texas higher education campuses. Until then, campuses all over the country will be waiting and watching.

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