AUSTIN, TEXAS – If you were producing a short documentary about Texas’ campus carry law, wouldn’t you want the input of the student-led organization that started the campus carry movement, solicited the support of both the National Rifle Association and its state affiliates, and popularized the phrase “campus carry“? This apparently wasn’t a priority for PBS when it produced the short documentary “Guns on Campus” to accompany the network’s upcoming broadcast of “Tower,” the award-winning feature-length documentary about the 1966 sniper attack at the University of Texas at Austin.
Producer/director Joanne Elgart Jennings waited until she was at the airport, on her way to Texas, before reaching out to the Texas chapter of Students for Concealed Carry. SCC Southwest Regional Director Brian Bensimon was eager to speak to Jennings about his organization’s positions and activism, but Jennings refused to interview Bensimon for the documentary unless he agreed to let her film him showing off a gun in his apartment. Bensimon explained that SCC has a strict policy against representatives displaying their handguns to the media, but Jennings refused to budge, and SCC was excluded from PBS’s documentary about the issue SCC created.
Now PBS is promoting a campus carry documentary that, despite offering brief clips of a couple of campus carry supporters, offers no insight into either the campus carry movement or the arguments that got a campus carry law passed in the Lone Star State. The documentary does, however, include an interview with one of the leaders of UT-Austin’s anti-campus carry movement.
The documentary also includes an interview with a UT-Austin professor who—in stark contrast to most media reports—claims that campus carry “makes it really hard for [professors] to do [their] job as instructors” because it has “introduced a level of tension, or wariness, into the classroom setting.” At no point during the documentary does this professor mention that she is one of three professors who filed suit a full month before the law took effect, seeking to block it.
This five-minute hit piece by PBS also includes a short interview with Ramiro Martinez, a retired Austin police officer who was one of two officers who shot and killed the perpetrator of the 1966 University of Texas sniper attack. The piece includes a clip of Martinez speculating about how dangerous it would have been if, during the 96-minute shooting spree, he had encountered an armed citizen who was also looking for the shooter—something license to carry holders are trained not to do.
The piece neglects to mention that Martinez retired from law enforcement five years before Texas’ concealed carry law took effect and that he has no experience as a law enforcement officer in a state where the licensed, concealed carry of handguns is allowed. It also neglects to mention that Martinez’s 2005 autobiography states, “I was and am still upset that more recognition has not been given to the citizens who pulled out their hunting rifles and returned the sniper’s fire. The City of Austin and the State of Texas should be forever thankful and grateful to them because of the many lives they saved that day.”
Michael Newbern, assistant director of public relations for SCC, commented, “How does someone produce a documentary on Texas’ campus carry law and not involve the group responsible for virtually every pro-campus carry op-ed published in Texas during the past decade? How do they not include the one group that ran a TV commercial supporting passage of the campus carry bill? It’s as if the film’s producers had no interest in the individuals and arguments that got the law passed in the first place.”
Bensimon, the SCC director who took the call from the documentary’s producer/director, explained his feelings on the matter:
When Ms. Jennings called, she left a voice mail stating that she was doing a story about “open carry on the UT campus” and that she planned on filming an “open carry class” and wanted to talk to “gun owners who can make the case that civilians who are trained and armed can assist law enforcement.”
The fact that she referenced gun owners rather than to license to carry holders gave me pause. There is a big difference between someone who simply buys a gun and someone who goes through the training, testing, and vetting required to obtain a Texas license to carry.
Also, the fact that she clearly didn’t understand the difference between open carry, which remains illegal on Texas college campuses, and concealed carry, which is what the Texas Legislature voted to allow on college campuses, made me think she hadn’t done much homework before embarking on her trip to Texas.
I was further concerned by the fact that she wanted someone to defend the argument that gun owners can “assist law enforcement ,” which was not one of the arguments behind the passage of Texas’ campus carry law—a law that is about personal protection, not campus protection, that is about allowing licensed individuals on campus their usual means of self-defense, not about creating amateur security guards.
Given Ms. Jennings’ fundamental misunderstandings of the issue, I thought SCC would have a lot to contribute to her project. But when I returned her call, she was only interested in finding somebody to add controversy or sex appeal or whatever she thought showing a student with a gun added to her film.
ABOUT STUDENTS FOR CONCEALED CARRY — Students for Concealed Carry (SCC) is a national, non-partisan, grassroots organization comprising college students, faculty, staff, and concerned citizens who believe that holders of state-issued concealed handgun licenses should be allowed the same measure of personal protection on college campuses that current laws afford them virtually everywhere else. SCC is not affiliated with the NRA or any other organization. For more information on SCC, visit ConcealedCampus.org or Facebook.com/ConcealedCampus. For more information on the debate over campus carry in Texas, visit WhyCampusCarry.com.
“A Refresher on the Case for Campus Carry in Texas”: http://concealedcampus.org/2016/05/a-refresher-on-the-case-for-campus-carry-in-texas/
SCC’s Oct. 2, 2015 – Feb. 8, 2017, Texas press releases and op-eds: https://www.scribd.com/document/319141232/Texas-Students-for-Concealed-Carry-Campus-Carry-Press-Releases-Op-Eds-Oct-2-2015-Feb-8-2017
SCC’s 2015 Texas legislative handout (includes Dec. 9 – May 22, 2015, press releases and op-eds): https://www.scribd.com/document/255815743/SCC-s-2015-Texas-Legislative-Handout
All SCC statements regarding the campus carry policies proposed by UT-Austin: https://www.scribd.com/document/317821607/Texas-Students-for-Concealed-Carry-Press-Releases-Regarding-UT-Austin-s-Campus-Carry-Policies
RECENT NEWS ARTICLES ABOUT CAMPUS CARRY IN TEXAS:
“WT transitions smoothly to first semester of campus carry” – Amarillo Globe-News – Dec. 19, 2016
“No gun related incidents reported at UTEP since SB11 went into effect” – KFOX 14 – Oct. 24, 2016
“Midwestern State encouraged by early results of campus carry policy” – KAUZ – Oct. 19, 2016
“Campus carry off to quiet start” – Denton Record-Chronicle – Oct. 15, 2016
“The Beginning of Campus Carry: As a Texas student affected by the law, I never would’ve imagined how much my opinion has changed” – Study Breaks – Sept. 21, 2016