AUSTIN, TX – Allowing only private colleges to opt out of Texas’ new campus carry law may be a double standard, but it’s the same double standard that always exists between the custodians of public property and the owners of private property.
During the December 6 episode of Inside Texas Politics on WFAA—ABC’s Dallas-Fort Worth affiliate—Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy commented, “Let’s talk about why private campuses opt out [of campus carry]. I mean, [Senator] Brian Birdwell carried the bill. The biggest employer in his district is Baylor University, so I think we know why private universities [can opt out].”
That statement ignores the fact that the language allowing private colleges to opt out originated in campus carry legislation authored by former Texas Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio), whose district encompassed the state’s fifth-largest public university but no large private universities.
Long before Senator Birdwell or even the NRA got involved with the issue of campus carry, Students for Concealed Carry publicly endorsed the idea that private colleges, like all private property owners, should be allowed to regulate what is and isn’t allowed under their roof(s). The ability of private colleges to operate free of many of the restrictions placed on public colleges is fundamental to the existence of private colleges. When you consider that private colleges have wide latitude to require church attendance, enforce morality codes, and place restrictions on students’ freedom of speech, it makes sense that those same institutions would be allowed to restrict the rights of concealed handgun license holders on campus. There is nothing unethical or unusual about allowing private property owners to set their own policies but requiring state-funded colleges to honor state-issued licenses.
SCC has long suspected that most if not all private colleges would initially opt out of any campus carry law passed by the Texas Legislature. If private colleges were willing to allow campus carry, at least a few surely would have exercised their authority, under the previous law, to create written policies allowing campus carry. SCC’s hope is that once the administrators of private colleges see campus carry safely and successfully implemented on public college campuses, they’ll reconsider the wisdom of denying trained, carefully screened adults the same measure of personal protection those licensed holders are already allowed virtually everywhere else.
During the same roundtable discussion in which Bud Kennedy made the aforementioned statement, Ross Ramsey—executive editor and co-founder of the Texas Tribune—stated, “I think [mass shootings like we saw in San Bernardino and Colorado Springs] make the decisions [private colleges] have already made [to opt out] more defensible.”
Ramsey insinuates, without any factual basis, that allowing licensed concealed carry places a location at greater risk of an active-shooter massacre. Such an insinuation ignores the fact that Texas concealed handgun license holders commit violent crimes at approximately 1/5 the rate of the general population, that the vast majority of studies on licensed concealed carry have concluded that it cannot be shown to lead to an increase in violent crime, that almost all public active-shooter massacres are premeditated, carefully planned attacks (not the spontaneous act of someone who happens to be carrying a gun at that time), and that most public active-shooter massacres occur in locations where licensed concealed carry is not an option generally available to law-abiding citizens.
When commenting on Texas’ new campus carry law, too many editorialists/columnist are content to rely on preconceived notions and decades-old prejudices rather than in-depth analysis of the facts. However, the facts are readily available for anyone who cares to look.