AUSTIN, TX – The same organization that claims campus carry will “put a chill on public debate” and “intimidate faculty from tackling controversial issues” will once again hold an anti-campus carry rally in an area of the University of Texas at Austin campus where the licensed concealed carry of handguns is already legal. This is the fourth such rally since April 28 to take place in an area of the UT-Austin campus where the possession of firearms is legal.
The rally, sponsored by the group Gun Free UT, is scheduled to take place at 12 PM Tuesday, November 10, in the west mall rally space on the UT-Austin campus. Because Texas law does not classify the publicly accessible outdoor areas of a college campus (e.g., UT-Austin’s west mall rally space) as part of the “premises” of the college, and because this event is not sponsored by the university, nothing in the Texas Penal Code prohibits a concealed handgun license (CHL) holder from carrying a concealed handgun at the rally.
Antonia Okafor, Southwest regional director for Students for Concealed Carry (SCC), asked,
“If these faculty and students aren’t afraid to directly challenge concealed handgun license holders at a rally where license holders can carry guns, why should we believe that students or faculty will be afraid to discuss controversial issues in a classroom where license holders can carry guns? For that matter, why should students or faculty be more concerned about speaking their minds in a classroom where a license holder might be carrying a gun legally than in a classroom where a criminal or lunatic might be carrying a gun illegally?”
After Texas Senate Bill 11 (the campus carry law) takes effect on August 1, 2016, the firearm restrictions in campus buildings will still be much more stringent than are the current firearm restrictions in UT-Austin’s west mall rally space. Under the campus carry law, only trained, licensed, carefully screened adults (age 21 or above) will be allowed to carry concealed handguns in campus buildings. Under the current law, any non-felon over the age of 18 may lawfully possess a long gun (rifle or shotgun) in the publicly accessible outdoor areas of campus. Okafor noted,
“At this rally, an eighteen-year-old who has undergone no training, vetting, or licensing could legally have an AK-47 with a folding stock stuffed inside his backpack, yet members of Gun Free UT are more than willing to stand in front of the crowd and discuss one of the most controversial topics to affect college campuses in the past decade.”
This isn’t the only way in which the rhetoric of Gun Free UT conflicts with the reality of campus carry. The group also claims that campus carry will lead to an increase in student suicides, despite the fact that 90% of suicides occur in the victim’s home while 95% of UT-Austin students over the age of 21 live off campus, the fact that CHL holders are already allowed to store handguns in their cars parked on campus, and the fact that more than 150 U.S. college campuses have allowed campus carry for an average of more than five years (a combined total of more than 1,500 semesters) without a single resulting suicide, suicide attempt, homicide, assault, sexual assault, or accidental death.
When it comes to polling data and scientific studies, Gun Free UT repeatedly ignores the preponderance of data, which conflict with their position, and cites outliers that support their position. They ignore two impartial University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls that found more Texans in favor of campus carry than opposed to it and, instead, cite a gun-control group’s internal poll that claims the opposite. They ignore the vast majority of peer-reviewed studies (including a2015 study from Texas A&M University) showing that licensed concealed carry cannot be shown to lead to an increase in violent crime and, instead, cite one of the only studies to find the opposite.
“If anything reflects poorly on Texas universities, it’s not the state’s new campus carry law; it’s the poor reasoning skills demonstrated by the academics who oppose it.”