Marcus Connolly, The Paisano
Texas Legislature is pushing for concealed firearms in state colleges and universities as the Campus Carry bill passes the Senate’s panel. However, leaders at some Texas schools are worried that the consequences would negatively affect the learning environment.
Texas is notorious for its pride in the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms. “I made a promise to help pass both open carry and campus carry and have worked hard on the issue,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick who has pushed the bill to the Senate.
“My legislative intent focuses solely on the concealed carry of a hand gun on campus by a CHL (Concealed Handgun Licensing) holder,” said the author of the bill, Senator Brian Birdwell, in a Senate meeting Feb. 12.
Owning a CHL in Texas requires one to be an American citizen, 21 years or older, who has gone through a background check and four to six hours of classroom training. Current Texas laws allow CHL holders to carry on campus, but not inside buildings.
In a letter to Gov. Abbot, Lt. Gov. Patrick and Speaker Straus, University of Texas’ Chancellor William McRaven expressed his concerns for the bill: “parents, students, faculty, administrators and law enforcement all continue to express their concerns that the presence of concealed handguns on campus would contribute to a less safe environment, not a safer one.”
“We are grateful to have a Chancellor that shares our sentiments with respect to campus safety, and we believe this is in the best interest of the students and general university community,” said Student Government Association President Zack Dunn.
In a poll of 100 randomly selected UTSA students, when asked if they would support a Campus Carry bill that will allow Texans to carry firearms on state colleges and universities, 33 said they would, while 67 said they would oppose such a measure.
Campus-shooting trends around the country have some Texas students anxious while others believe a Campus Carry bill will give them tranquility. “I feel confident that those who choose to carry will take the responsibility to be cautious and diligent gun owners,” said junior public administration major Giovanna Valverde.
On the contrary, UTSA’s Chief of Police, Officer Steve Barrera, who has 35 years of experience in the force, believes adding more weapons would do more damage than good.
“I have serious concerns on the issue — especially in law enforcement — about being able to tell a handgun owner who is just trying to help if we ever do have an incident, with violence on campus. It would be very difficult to tell the difference between the good guy and the bad guy,” said Officer Barrera.
“A constitutional right is precious. Our CHL holders are our most law-abiding sub-demographic in the state,” Birdwell said, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald. “What is it about a college campus that’s a public university that makes us believe that we should preclude the CHL holder from that campus and deny them that right? Anytime you can extend a freedom, it’s a great opportunity, and this is one that should have never been contracted.”
Both Chancellor McRaven and Officer Barrera have concerns about the mental stability of some students. In his letter, McRaven stated, “Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. There is a great concern that the presence of handguns…will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.”
“I would rather see guns being properly regulated and registered than people continuing to sneak them in or conceal them illegally as they do now,” said senior interdisciplinary studies major Kathryn Luella, who believes the proper restrictions are important for the campus carry bill to work.