Texas will allow concealed handgun license holders to carry their weapons into public university buildings, classrooms, and dorms as of Monday, reports Associated Press. This law, endorsed by Governor Greg Abbot along with the Republican legislative majority will guarantee the right to carry concealed handguns on campus.
According to the Texas Penal Code (Tex. Penal Code § 46.03(a) and Tex. Penal Code § 46.03(f) any individuals are prohibited from intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly possessing or going with a firearm on the physical premises of a school or educational institution, any grounds or building on which an activity sponsored by a school or educational institution is being conducted, or in a passenger transportation vehicle of a school or educational institution, whether the school or educational institution is public or private, unless pursuant to written regulations or written authorization of the institution. As of Monday, there is an exception.
Anyone holding a Texas handgun license may carry a concealed handgun on campus. To qualify for the license, an individual must be at least 21-years-old, or, in the case of a military serviceman 18-years-old and pass both theoretic and practical exams regarding the use of the firearm. Convicted felons, people charged with high-level misdemeanors, and people with a history of mental illness do not qualify. At present, more than 1 million people in Texas at hold concealed handgun licenses.
Although the new law allows guns in buildings, classrooms, and dorms, different schools and campuses are allowed a certain amount of discretion as to the extent to which the law will be applied, as is the case with the University of Texas at Austin. Teachers are permitted to declare their offices as "gun free zones." Dorm residents will be permitted to carry their weapons in common areas like lounges and dining areas, but not in sleeping rooms as no weapon storage is allowed, with the exception of licensed family members who may be visiting. Other institutions, such as Texas A&M University, will allow guns in dorm rooms and require the teachers to obtain permission from the administration to ban guns from their office. In certain campus areas such as hospitals and at sporting events, firearms are still banned by state laws.
Professor Lex Williford, chairman of the Creative Writing Department sees things differently. "I think it's a lot more than a distraction. I think it's dangerous," he said. "I think it's one of the most dangerous things we could do at a time we need to be bringing down the cost of tuition to students who are now crushed by student debt. When I think of public education, I think of an education that is safe and hopefully relatively inexpensive. It seems to me that the priorities of the Texas State Legislature are so completely off that we have just reached this point of absurdity." He said there have been a number of events that have led him to believe having guns on campus is unwise, recounting an incident where a student of his sent him an email in which he threatened to "take himself out" along with all the attendees of a workshop Williford was teaching. He also told of a colleague of his that was gunned down by a student for refusing to accept his thesis.
[Photo by Eric Gay/AP Images]