College students in Texas could bring guns into their classrooms, cafeterias, and dorms and everywhere else on campus, if lawmakers in Austin pass a campus carry bill. The Chancellor of the University of Texas System thinks this is a bad idea.
About a dozen states have decided that their universities are public places, and allow people with licenses to have their guns. Most of these campus carry laws were passed after the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech in 2007.
The Texas bill is moving quickly through the House and Senate. It has dozens of co-authors and sponsors, including Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills.
“A lot of the concern is overblown. You’re not dealing with freshmen, you’ve got to be 21 years of age. You’ve got to be responsible enough to have taken a course, while taking your other collegiate courses as well,” he said.
Admiral William McRaven, the Navy Seal who is now Chancellor of the University of Texas System, thinks the risk of guns on campus is too great.
“This is not a case where I am in complete disagreement with people on the other side of the argument,” he said in an interview with the Texas Tribune last week. “I understand the other side of the argument. But my job is to protect faculty, students, staff and clinicians.”
McRaven asked Texas legislators NOT to allow more guns on campuses, after hearing from doctors and nurses, campus police officers, and lots of faculty who said they would be less safe. In a letter to the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the House, McRaven stressed that suicide is a leading cause of death among college students. He noted that students they experiences extreme emotional and psychological pressures in college.
McRaven pointed out that the bill includes a noteworthy exemption to keep guns out of sporting events.
“Why is that? Passions run high at sporting events, and the alcohol is introduced in addition to passions running high,” he said. “But if you’re a student who got a failing grade, and who thinks that grade is your life, how much higher is that passion? If you’re in a hospital, and a loved one is sick and you think the doctor caused that, how much higher is that passion?”
While other college presidents have concerns about campus carry, including the last chancellor of the UT system, McRaven’s position as a four-star general and military hero carries special weight.
“It might give pause to a legislator, it might give someone who was looking for a reason to vote against it some cover for against it,” said Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune.
Many students on campus at UT Arlington also have strong feelings about campus carry coming to their school.
“I think it’s absurd. It wouldn’t make anyone safer. It would make me personally feel less safe,” said Nathan Briguglio, a communication technology major from Ft. Worth.
“Since we have our own police department, they are everywhere on campus. Any building on campus they can be there within three minutes,” said Joseph Cash, and international business student. “I personally would trust a trained individual versus a civilian to have a gun.”
Alex Tremillo, a student of kinesiology from Waco, said he is comfortable around guns and feels like the benefits of campus carry outweigh the costs. “We have the right to bear arms,” he said. “We should be able to carry on campus.”
“People are really naive when it comes to guns,” said Yasmin Lozano, 19, a biology and pre-med major. She’s a member of the Texas State Guard Medical Brigade, and said she would be comfortable carrying a firearm on campus after she gets her license at 21.
The campus carry bill gets it first public hearing in Austin on Thursday.
McRaven says that whatever Texas lawmakers decide, he’ll give a smart salute and make it work. He also hopes they’ll give individual campuses the freedom to opt out.