The state of Texas is preparing to give college students and professors the right to carry concealed handguns on campus.
Supporters of the legislation feel that self-defense is imperative after several recent lethal shootings at colleges across the country while opponents argue that allowing guns will only make campuses more dangerous.
Republican Governor Rick Perry, who admits to packing a pistol while he jogs, has said he’s in favor of the idea. Over half the members of the Texas House have signed on as co-authors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2009 and is expected to do so again, reports USA Today.
According to the article, Republican state Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio believes the issue is strictly a matter of self-defense. “I don’t ever want to see repeated on a Texas college campus what happened at Virginia Tech, where some deranged, suicidal madman goes into a building and is able to pick off totally defenseless kids like sitting ducks.”
Virginia Tech senior Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many others before committing suicide on April 16, 2007. Another prominent example of a recent school shooting is the 2008 tragedy at Northern Illinois University. Former NIU student Steven Kazmierczak opened fire into a classroom before turning a gun on himself, killing five students and injuring twenty-one before he committed suicide on February 14, 2008. On September 28, 2010, University of Texas student Colton Joshua Tooley fired several shots from an assault rifle before killing himself.
Should it pass, the Texas bill will permit firearms on public university campuses in the state, which are attended by more than 500,000 students. University of Texas President William Powers has opposed concealed handguns on campus, claiming that the mix of students, guns and campus parties is too unpredictable.
Ed Leathers, chief of police for Collin College in the northern suburbs of Dallas, is also convinced that campuses are the wrong place for concealed handguns. “Our officers are trained to go immediately to the location of where shots are reported to be fired, and they’re trained not to ask any questions but stop the person who they identify with a weapon,” he told the Texas Tribune on February 16, 2011.
Stopping the person with a weapon could include a student or teacher who is trying to take down a shooter, Leathers explained. If Leathers and his officers came upon a scene with more than one armed person, they wouldn’t be able to tell the good guy from the bad.
Colin Goddard, assistant director of federal legislation for the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence, was shot four times during the Virginia Tech rampage and survived by playing dead. Goddard was at the state Capitol to fight against guns on campus along with John Woods, another former Virginia Tech student whose girlfriend killed in the 2007 massacre.
“I was there that day. It was the craziest day of my life with one person walking around with two guns,” Goddard said. "I can’t even imagine what it would have been like with multiple students and multiple guns,” he said, reports the Houston Chronicle.
Since 2007, twenty-three states have rejected proposals that would allow guns on college campuses. One such bill was proposed by Oklahoma Senator Steve Russell, an Oklahoma City Republican and Iraq War veteran.
“There is no scenario where allowing concealed weapons on college campuses will do anything other than create a more dangerous environment for students, faculty, staff and visitors,” Oklahoma Chancellor of Higher Education Glen Johnson said in a statement issued in January.
Utah is the only other state in the country that has passed a similar law allowing concealed weapons on college campuses. The Salt Lake City-based University of Utah had prohibited firearms on campus until the ban was struck down by the state’s Supreme Court in late 2006, reports CNN.
“The university is following the law as determined by the Utah Legislature during last year’s session, which allows concealed weapon permit holders to carry guns on university and colleges campuses, as well as other locations,” spokeswoman Coralie Alder said at the time.
Texas enacted its concealed handgun law in 1995. It allows people aged 21 or older to carry concealed handguns if they pass a training course and a background check. Businesses, schools and churches can set rules banning guns on their premises. Guns are currently prohibited in buildings, dorms and certain grounds around college campuses.
According to the state Department of Public Safety, Texas had 461,724 concealed handgun license holders as of December 31, 2010.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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