Friday, February 4, 2011 | The Daily Texan | Lauren Winchester, Editor-in-Chief | (512) 232-2212 | firstname.lastname@example.org
THE BILLS: Senate Bill 354: Relating to the carrying of concealed handguns on the campuses of institutions of higher education.
Sponsors and contact information:
Editor’s note : This is the first installment in a six-part series about legislation that would directly affect students. We have asked campus leaders, students, faculty, politicians and administrators to weigh in on this week’s topic of debate: concealed carry on campus.
Author: Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, (512) 463-0125 Co Authors: Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Waco, (512) 463-0122 Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas,(512) 463-0116 Sen. Bob Duell, R-Mesquite, (512) 463-0102 Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Longview, (512) 463-0101 Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls, (512) 463-0130 Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Abilene, (512) 463-0124 Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, (512) 463-0109 Sen. Glenn Hegar, R-Katy, (512) 463-0118 Sen. Mike Jackson, R-Pasadena, (512) 463-0111 Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Grapevine, (512) 463-0112 Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, (512) 463-0107 Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, (512) 463-0131 Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, (512) 463-0104
House Bill 86: Relating to the carrying of concealed handguns on the campuses of institutions of higher education.
Sponsor and contact information: Author: Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, (512) 463-0750
To find contact information for your local state representative or state senator, please visit the Capitol’s “Who Represents Me” page at www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us What’s your opinion on concealed carry? E-mail us
legalese Opinions expressed in The Daily Texan are those of the editor, the Editorial Board or the writer of the article. They are not necessarily those of the UT administration, the Board of Regents or the Texas Student Media Board of Operating Trustees.
The question: How would concealed carry affect campus safety? Graduate Students Association
Sen. Craig Estes, R-Wichita Falls S.B. 354 co-author
For an idea of why campus isn’t the place for guns, just take a look at the online comments on any column touching on the concealed carry issue. These debates are important, and some emotion is to be expected — but it would seem foolish to be on the wrong end of that vitriol in person, with a student strapped with a Glock. Vigorous debate is fundamental to fostering critical thinking skills, and it can’t happen if students are armed. With all due respect to principled individuals, some who would come armed to campus are irresponsible; they threaten to bear arms at Students for Gun-Free Schools-sponsored parties (where alcohol may be present) and find humor in rearranging our logo so that the students are depicted with bullet holes and pools of blood. This is intimidation, pure and simple, and it’s bad judgment. Yet judgment is exactly what campus carry advocates claim they have in excess. They cite statistics that those with carry licenses (CHLs) have lower crime rates than the general population. Such statistics are flawed. The CHL population does not include repeat offenders, but the general population does — and importantly, the general population includes former CHL holders who had their licenses revoked due to felony convictions. Anyone can make mistakes, carry licensees included. In safe places, such as college campuses, guns create the potential for needlessly violent mishaps.
Concealed carry is particularly sensitive to today’s graduate student more so than ever before. This sensitivity is a direct result of the media exposure to campus shootings throughout our lives. Growing up, we took note of Pearl Jam’s ballad “Jeremy.” As young teenagers, we watched our peers flee Columbine. As adults, we mourned alongside our Virginia Tech classmates. Graduate students understand these events may have been avoided with increased mental health awareness, not with concealed carry. Increasing the number of individuals who carry concealed handguns on campus does not directly correlate to increased campus safety. Concealed carry averts attention to the true issue of mental health. Though advocates argue that concealed carry allows for a quick response to critical situations, the reality is that it will hinder our trained UTPD from effectively managing all situation. Who’s to say there will always be a license holder near to respond to a situation? Will we have a number of concealed carriers eager to showcase the 10 hours of training need for a concealed carry license? Ensuring student safety is a paramount mission for UT. If legislation permitting concealed carry is passed, we fear that mission will be increasingly difficult to assure.
I think that there are two primary ways that S.B. 354 will increase campus safety. First, it increases the likelihood that students will be able to stop a spree shooter during the five to 15 minutes it takes police to arrive at the scene. As the University of Texas learned first-hand in September, the fact that it is currently illegal to bring a gun onto college campuses has no effect on a person who is deranged or is intent on breaking the law. Gun laws generally disarm only the law-abiding. If you’re planning to murder 30 or 40 people in a spree shooting, do you really think the threat of third-degree felony charges for possessing a gun on campus is going to change your mind? The first argument I described gets most of the media attention, but spree shootings are extremely rare. The second way S.B. 354 will increase campus safety is to me the most important. Some people are athletically gifted enough to learn a martial art well enough to protect themselves in most dangerous situations. Most of us have neither the time nor the athletic ability to master a martial art to this degree. For us, the most effective means of self-defense is a concealed handgun. A concealed handgun levels the playing field between the weak and the strong. Right now, students who rely on this form of self-defense off campus are deprived of it by law every time they go to school. This law will restore those students’ ability to defend themselves at all times.
Bernadette De La Cruz Student Government Fine Arts Representative
Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio S.B. 354 author
As a college representative who has discussed the issue of campus safety and the legislative session with constituents, I can confidently say that most feel that concealed carry is an inane notion that wouldn’t benefit the campus environment. I have serious qualms with concealed carry. The fact that a mere 10- to 15-hour class, which unbelievably purports to demonstrate written and physical acumen with guns (a one-time display), and jumping through a few bureaucratic hoops is all that’s needed to obtain a CHL is staggering. Circumventing certain aspects of the process is too easy. For example, the State of Texas Eligibility Code states that a person isn’t eligible for a CHL if the person is, under Subsection (a) (7), considered incapable of exercising sound judgment with respect to proper use and storage of a handgun. If someone is mentally unstable but not diagnosed by a physician, he or she can still obtain a CHL. Simply put, the minimum standard of firearm competency is just that: too minimal. There might be room for future compromise, should more demanding requirements for CHL qualification be introduced and provided that universities retain their control over campus weapon policy. Until then, I won’t support guns on campus.
If someone were thinking of going on a shooting spree in a university classroom because he thought it was a “gun-free zone,” would he be so willing if his targets were possibly armed? I filed Senate Bill 354 to allow vulnerable, defenseless faculty, staff and students 21 years of age and older to defend themselves from a suicidal gunman. Thirteen senators joined me as co-authors. As it is now, faculty, staff and students are sitting ducks. My bill would allow those with concealed handgun licenses to carry handguns into college and university buildings, dormitories and classrooms as a means of self-defense from deranged shooters. The requirements to obtain a CHL are rigorous and include criminal background checks, 10 to 15 hours of classroom instruction, firing range instruction and testing. Holders of CHLs are safetyconscious, law abiding, well-trained Texans. A cowardly potential shooter may reconsider his plan if the targets just might shoot back.
John Woods Director of Students For Gun-Free Schools
Robert Dahlstrom UTPD Chief of Police There are many arguments both for and against concealed handguns at universities. From my own experience, I can say handguns would definitely complicate law enforcement on campus, and it may affect how faculty, staff and students interact. For example, part of higher education’s responsibility is to help students develop confidence in their abilities, including self-expression. Faculty encourages disagreement and debate to foster critical thinking and self-assurance. Introducing handguns into this environment may have a chilling effect on the institution’s ability to cultivate this skill set. As it stands, without firearms as a factor, UTPD is called to respond to real and perceived threats provoked by volatile language and inappropriate behavior. Firearms on campus add other concerns to this dynamic. As peace officers, our job is to uphold the laws and to protect the public without regard to personal opinion. Regardless of how this legislation works out, UTPD will uphold its commitment to making this the safest campus in the nation.
The February 4 edition of the Daily Texan