Notebook, check. Laptop, check. Handgun, check. This could be the list of school supplies for some UTSA students next year.
On August 1, 2016, Senate Bill 11 – which Governor Greg Abbott signed into law earlier this year – will take effect, allowing some students to carry handguns onto university campuses such as UTSA’s. The bill functions as an extension of the Texas Concealed Handgun License Program, and is not the same as the “Open Carry” bill that was brought to law makers at the same time. The “Campus Carry” law will allow students who possess a concealed handgun license to carry a concealed handgun onto a Texas university campus, provided it is concealed in the manner that a Concealed Handgun License dictates. Since the right to carry on campus only extends to those possessing a concealed handgun license, certain conditions must be met to make use of the campus carry law. Such requirements include being at least 21 years of age and having no history of mental illness, substance dependency, or recent felony convictions. The age requirement alone will keep many college students from obtaining Concealed Handgun Licenses (CHL), as 59.4 percent of UTSA’s student body is between the ages of 17 and 22, according to the UTSA census from spring semester of 2015.
Student opinion remains divided for the time being, with both support and opposition of the law existing in the student body. “I think it’s a good idea to have campus carry, as it allows responsible people to have a weapon in case of any active shooter events, as such events in the past could have been prevented by those who can carry and have proper training,” says senior Criminal Justice major Jason Buikema. “The training though,” Buikema adds, “is the essential part to ensure safety for everyone.” Senior English major Christi Valadez does not think the law is a good idea, stating that, “requirements for concealed handguns have dwindled in the past five years and have put guns in the hands of many people who should not own them.” Valdez continued, saying, “I feel safe enough knowing that a properly trained campus officer is close by. Campus carry would make me feel less safe at UTSA and could ultimately take away from the learning experience.”
Officials in the University of Texas system, including the chancellor of the system itself, Admiral William McRaven, have voiced opposition to the bill. McRaven, in conjunction with Dr. Romo and other state university officials, voiced their concerns about campus carry worrying that it might dissuade faculty from joining the University of Texas system, and even drive up tuition costs. Our own Student Government Association also took measures to voice its opposition to the bill before it was signed into law.
Those who oppose the law might find comfort in the fact that the Campus Carry law allows the President of the University to designate “gun-free” zones where he or she believes they are needed. President Romo therefore has the ability to pick where on UTSA’s campus students may carry their firearms. This provides the President with the ability to essentially limit the reach of this law.