UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa has added his voice to the growing dissent of Senate Bill 354 (SB 354), which would allow Concealed Handgun License (CHL) holders to carry their firearm on campus.
Cigarroa made his concerns known in a one-page letter to Gov. Rick Perry, as well as to legislators involved in the bill’s creation.
In the letter, Cigarroa cited “the pressures of academic life, separation from family and relationships” as factors that, when combined with easier access to firearms, could compound the already prevalent issue of suicide as the second leading cause of death among college students.
In an interview with The Paisano, Senator Jeff Wentworth, the sponsor of SB 354, defended the proposed legislation, stating that “those opposed to the bill are misguided.” Wentworth contended that “most of the dissenters don’t appreciate that we’re talking about people 21 and older.
This won’t affect the traditional freshman, sophomore or junior, who are under this age limit.” He added that “over 98 percent of Texans do not get a CHL. It’s a real hassle.”
Wentworth argued that “if the bad guys aren’t sure if the good guys are armed, then they are less likely to take the chance of facing an armed would-be victim.”
In contrast, UTSAPD’s Police Chief Steve Barrera echoed the concerns of the chancellor, saying that his biggest fear if the bill passes is that “it will be very difficult for UTSAPD to tell the ‘good guys’ from the ‘bad.'”
Barrera insisted that with the department’s impressive response times of often under one minute, students are much safer with the trained police staff protecting campus members against armed assailants.
Wentworth dismissed Barrera’s position, saying, “He works for the chancellor, doesn’t he? I wouldn’t expect an employee to publicly disagree with his boss.”
He went on to say, “I’ve spoken with campus security members who disagree with the chancellor, but they’re not going public with it because the chancellor has already announced the policy of the UT System.”
Barrera is not alone in his concern regarding the bill. Robert Fuhrman, Chair of UTSA’s psychology department, when asked about the new bill, said, “I don’t know if it makes it more dangerous, but it doesn’t make it more safe.”
Fuhrman is not convinced that the age requirement for getting a CDL would decrease the added potential for handgun abuse. “The prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for impulse control, does not fully develop until the mid- to late-twenties.”
In addition, Fuhrman fears that having more guns on campus would lead to greater incidences of “friendly fire” where both campus police and other well-intentioned campus members with guns may end up shooting the one confronting the criminal shooter, resulting in more deaths.
Fuhrman went on to say that the argument that non-criminals carrying guns would deter the criminals is invalid. He feels that “in instances of campus shootings, the shooter has some idea that he won’t make it out alive.” He concludes by saying that “if I were a parent, I would be concerned.”