Students for Concealed Carry respects that university presidents and system chancellors have a difficult task in implementing the state’s new campus carry law, and we commend institutions such as the University of Texas at Tyler and Texas State University for addressing legitimate concerns while respecting the clear intent of the law. Unfortunately, a handful of universities are considering policies that would undermine the intent and, in some cases, the very letter of the legislation signed by Governor Abbott.
The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston wants to prohibit concealed carry in 80% of its buildings, despite the fact that only 9% of its buildings are used for patient care. Included below is a copy of the campus carry map created by the UTMB campus carry committee. On it you’ll see that—not counting parking structures, where the university has no authority to ban concealed carry—the committee recommends prohibiting concealed carry in 135 of its 170 buildings. Just fifteen of those 170 buildings are identified as being used for patient care.
UTMB even wants to ban concealed carry in its medical library because the library houses a collection of rare documents and antique microscopes that they believe could be damaged by gunfire. We at SCC do not believe that the legislators who concluded that licensed concealed carry can be safely allowed near students would agree that it cannot be safely allowed near rare artifacts. If that were the case, concealed carry would surely be prohibited at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum or even in the Texas Capitol. More significantly, we believe that prohibiting licensed concealed carry on more than three-quarters of a campus clearly violates the law’s prohibition against rules or regulations that “have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns on the campus.”
Both the University of North Texas and Texas Tech University want to prohibit concealed carry at large venues that host events such as performances of the performing arts. This means that a license holder attending a play at UNT or Texas Tech would be denied the same right he or she enjoys when visiting a movie theater in Denton or Lubbock. We do not think it is reasonable to claim that the size of the venue necessitates prohibiting licensed concealed carry at a performance of a university choir or symphony, given that concealed carry is already allowed at countless musical and theatrical performances throughout the state, including at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which each year attracts a crowd twice the size of Lubbock’s total population and four times the size of Denton’s total population.
The ACL Music Festival also serves as a strong rebuttal to UNT’s proposal that the university president be allowed to ban concealed carry campus wide for up to seven days when the university hosts a large-scale event involving the presence of alcohol. We believe that proposals such as these have less to do with the uniqueness of the campus environment than with task force members not understanding how licensed concealed carry is managed throughout the rest of the state.
This problem of being unfamiliar with and perhaps even paranoid about concealed carry is also demonstrated by several universities suggesting that concealed carry be banned at student recreation centers because, in their view, license holders cannot be trusted to keep their handguns concealed while working out. This proposal ignores the fact that license holders manage to exhibit sound judgment regarding when and when not to carry handguns at private health clubs; the fact that recreation centers are largely staffed by men and women whose jobs require them to wear business casual attire, not tank tops or swimsuits; and the fact that many of these facilities include student lounges, meeting rooms, and other non-athletic venues.
SCC is particularly concerned that both Texas Tech and the University of Texas at Austin want to let occupants of private offices designate their offices as criminally enforceable “gun-free” zones. Because the duties of a faculty member, staff member, research assistant, or teaching assistant may require entering one or more private offices multiple times each day, this policy would leave many license holders unable to carry on campus at all.
Consider, for example, an IT technician who must troubleshoot computers in numerous offices, a teaching assistant who must visit a professor’s office multiple times a day, or a research assistant who must coordinate with professors and graduate students in a half-dozen private offices? If, as the University of Texas has proposed, license holders are prohibited from leaving a handgun in a desk drawer or unattended backpack, how are these license holders supposed to accommodate an ever-changing patchwork of “gun-free” offices? Given that most license holders on campus are likely to be faculty, staff, or graduate students, a policy that renders many if not most faculty, staff, and graduate students unable to lawfully carry on campus must be viewed as a general prohibition.
Furthermore, why should employees of state colleges be the only state employees with the authority to arbitrarily criminalize licensed concealed carry in their offices? Licensed concealed carry is currently allowed in every office in the Texas Capitol. We at SCC do not think it reasonable for an employee of a state university to have more authority over licensed concealed carry than does a county clerk, a municipal waste management supervisor, or even a Texas legislator.
Finally, the most egregious policy proposal comes from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. They recommend that any license holder carrying a semiautomatic handgun on campus be required to carry the handgun with an unloaded chamber. This proposal would require license holders to use an inferior carry method in which very few of them are trained.
Included below are statements from highly qualified and, in some cases, world-renowned firearms instructors, denouncing this proposed empty-chamber policy. Also included are a couple of SCC press releases that go into greater detail about the many problems inherent to such a policy.
The short explanation is that requiring a semiautomatic handgun to be carried with an empty chamber would minimize and, in some cases, completely negate the handgun’s usefulness in a self-defense scenario. Furthermore, requiring this method of carry would render useless most training received from a civilian shooting school, a police academy, or the U.S. military. After months of heated debates about whether or not license holders have adequate training to carry guns on college campuses, this policy would turn even the most well-trained license holders into neophytes.
Additionally, this policy would create a whole new set of risks. For example, license holders unhappy with the minimal protection offered by a half-loaded gun would almost certainly drive to campus with the chamber loaded and then sit in their cars in the university parking lot, where the university has no authority to regulate concealed carry, and remove the live round from the chamber—a process much more likely to result in an accidental or negligent discharge than is anything a license holder would normally do during the course of a day. Then, at the end of the day, those same license holders would use the concealment of their cars to reload the chamber before driving home.
Conversely, license holders who walk or ride the bus to campus would be forced to use this inferior method of carry during their commutes. That means that a graduate student who encounters an assailant while walking home would have to rely on a half-loaded handgun for protection.
One of the most perplexing things about this proposed policy is the distinction it draws between semiautomatic handguns and revolvers. Both a double-action revolver and a double-action semiautomatic require roughly the same amount of pressure to pull the trigger, and both fire a round when the trigger is pulled; therefore, this policy seems to indicate an inadequate understanding of modern firearms.
The proposal that license holders carry guns with empty chambers is presumably aimed at preventing accidental or negligent discharges; however, simply requiring every handgun to be kept in a holster that covers the trigger guard is all that is needed to prevent a negligent discharge. This proposed empty-chamber policy is not just unnecessary; it is dangerous and counterproductive on virtually every front. We at SCC cannot conceive of any justification by which this policy could be considered “reasonable.”
Students for Concealed Carry believes that the Texas Legislature should clarify the scope and intent of the “reasonable rules” university presidents are authorized to make. We suggest that the legislature study the rules proposed by the various universities, codify those that make sense, and statutorily prohibit those that do not.
On January 26, 2016, Antonia Okafor, Southwest regional director for Students for Concealed Carry, testified before the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs, regarding the ongoing process of implementing Texas’s impending campus carry law (effective August 1, 2016). Video of the full hearing is available here.