CONTACT:Michael Newbern, Assistant Director of Public Relations, Students for Concealed Carry (SCC)
It’s no surprise that many students at the University of Texas at Austin would rather dangle dildos from their backpacks than allow licensed concealed carry on their campus—the school’s student newspaper is actively working to keep students from seeing the pro side of the campus carry debate. Since the beginning of the 2015 Texas Legislative Session, the Daily Texan has published 5 anti-campus carry opinion pieces for every 1 pro-campus carry opinion piece. One could argue that this is simply a case of more anti-campus carry pieces being submitted to the publication, if not for the fact that the paper’s editors are clearly looking for any excuse not to publish pro-carry columns.
During UT’s spring Semester, Madison Welch—then SCC’s Southwest regional director—submitted four op-eds to the Daily Texan. She received no reply to the first three (one of which was later carried by both The Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle). Finally, after the fourth submission, then-editor-in-chief Riley Brands wrote back, “We generally restrict op-eds to UT students.” This struck Madison as an odd policy, especially since the student papers at SMU, UNT, and UT-Arlington later had no problem carrying those same op-eds. Throughout the legislative session, other student papers also ran pieces by SCC, as they have for years.
Still, SCC’s state leaders would have accepted the Texan’s unusually strict submission policy if the paper hadn’t then offered a highly dubious justification for refusing to print an op-ed submitted on October 14, by Allison Peregory, a UT-Austin junior who serves as SCC’s University of Texas campus leader. In response to Peregory’s submission of THIS 498-word column, current Daily Texan Editor-In-Chief Claire Smith sent the following reply:
Unfortunately, we are unable to publish this guest submission. First, we are unable to verify that there has never been an incident at a university due to campus carry, as the author stated. Secondly, some of the rhetorical statements and devices of the op-ed may be the opinion of the author, but cannot be published as fact by a newspapers [sic]; for instance, the author writes that campus carry will be a “total non-issue” in Texas, but it has already created issues on campus through protests, counter-protests, the resignation of several professors, and the safety concerns of many students, none of which are non-issues.
As you contrast that rejection letter with the relatively benign op-ed Peregory submitted, keep in mind that Smith campaigned for the elected position of editor-in-chief on a platform of ”A more inclusive opinion section to better represent the diversity of belief present on campus.” She even penned a column titled “Inclusiveness is the key to a vital Daily Texan.” Apparently, inclusiveness is only the policy of the Daily Texan when being inclusive doesn’t conflict with Smith’s stated position against campus carry.
The best possible response to Smith’s rejection letter comes from Peregory herself, who replied:
On March 4, you told SCC’s previous regional director that, unlike every other student paper SCC has ever submitted to, the Texan only prints guest columns from students at the university. Now, seven months later, after the Texan has gotten into the practice of running several anti-campus carry pieces a week, you tell me—a student at the university—that you can’t print my pro-campus carry op-ed because I failed to prove a negative (if only there were some sort of journalistic rule/guideline about this) and because it expresses opinions (if only there were some sort of outlet for opinions—some sort of opinion piece in which a non-subjective author could editorialize on an issue).
Nowhere in my piece does it claim, “there has never been an incident at a university due to campus carry.” What it claims is, “Currently, more than 150 U.S. college campuses allow the licensed concealed carry of handguns (no, Oregon’s Umpqua Community College isn’t one of them). After allowing campus carry for a combined total of more than 1,500 semesters (an average of more than five years), not one of those colleges has seen a single resulting assault, suicide attempt, or fatal accident.” If you’re having trouble verifying that claim, I suggest you ask the editors of The Texas Tribune, the Austin American-Statesman, The Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and The Texas Tribune (again) how they verified it. And those are just the major papers that have printed this claim within the past year. I could go back years, showing you national, state, metropolitan, and student papers across the U.S. that have printed variations of this fact.
If that’s not good enough for you, there is also this: During his September 21 interview with The Texas Tribune‘s Evan Smith, UT-Austin President Gregory Fenves said, “Part of what the working group is doing is looking at other states that have campus carry….as far as we know, as far as I know, there haven’t been any significant problems.” If you’re still unconvinced but genuinely want to fact-check my piece, why not place a call to Steven Goode, chair of UT-Austin’s campus carry working group? Given that this is the type of thing his committee is tasked with researching, maybe he can give you an answer that is to your satisfaction.
As for the line “Protest the new law all you want, but understand that–as is currently the case in Utah, Colorado, Mississippi, and Idaho–campus carry will be a total non-issue in the Lone Star State,” that is a prediction, not an analysis of the current state of the UT-Austin campus. Some people were initially upset about campus carry coming to Utah, Colorado, Idaho, and Mississippi, but their predictions of violence never came to be, and their protests eventually died down. You’ve printed plenty of editorials and op-eds expressing very dire predictions of what campus carry will lead to on the UT-Austin campus—are you honestly saying you can’t print an op-ed predicting the opposite?
I long ago accepted that my personal beliefs don’t align with the majority at UT-Austin, but I always assumed that I had the same right as anyone else to have my opinion heard. I am beyond disgusted by the lack of journalistic and editorial integrity demonstrated by the editors of The Daily Texan.
Just to be clear that what we’re talking about is evidence of absence, not absence of evidence, I want to point out that when SCC was formed in 2007, our founding members spoke to officials (typically chiefs of campus police) at the schools in Utah and Colorado where campus carry was then allowed, to confirm that they hadn’t had any assaults, suicide attempts, or deaths related to CHL holders. Since then, we’ve monitored reports from those schools and the others that have begun allowing campus carry, for any reports of assaults, suicide attempts, or deaths related to CHL holders. We haven’t found any. This claim has been checked and printed by countless reputable media outlets over the years, so I have a hard time believing that your refusal to print it is based on anything more than personal bias.
Below is the list of relevant opinion pieces published by the Daily Texan since January 1, 2015. There are 20 anti-campus carry pieces and just 4 pro-campus carry pieces. The average time between pro-campus carry pieces was 84 days, while the average time between anti-campus carry pieces was only 13 days. Although each of the pro-campus carry pieces had an anti-campus carry counterpoint published within 24 hours (three counterpoints were published on the same day as the pro piece; one was published the day after the pro piece), eight of the anti-campus carry pieces ran during a week in which no pro-campus carry pieces were published.