Texas Will Now Allow Guns In College Classrooms Under New Law That Starts Today

Texas will now allow certain college and university students to bring guns into school classrooms under a new law that goes into effect today, Reuters is reporting.

The so-called “campus carry” law allows students, professors, cleaning crew — anyone 21 and over and already in possession of a concealed carry license — to bring a concealed handgun into classrooms throughout the University of Texas system, which has some 214,000 students statewide.

The University of Texas system's flagship university in Austin, with its famed clock tower in the background. [Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for National Park Foundation]

The law allows private colleges and universities in Texas to opt out of the rules, and most of the Lone Star State’s private schools — including Baylor, Rice, and Texas Christian University — have done so. Further, according to KTRK (Houston), each school is allowed to map out its own rules for how the new gun law will play out on campus. For example, at the University of Texas at Austin, professors can declare their classrooms “Gun-Free Zones” if they so choose, although they must post signs at the entrance if they do so.

The “campus carry” law was hotly debated as it made its way through the Texas legislature. Republicans, including key supporter Governor Greg Abbott, said the law was necessary to keep Texas college campuses safe. By arming students and faculty, supporters hope that an armed individual could prevent a mass shooting on campus before it ever happens — the so-called “good guy with a gun” theory.

Similarly, Republican Brian Birdwell, via WFAA (Dallas), said last year that the law is about preserving the Second Amendment on Texas’ college campuses.

“It is public property that belongs to the people of the state of Texas. We’re going to make sure that we preserve their rights.”

Opponents of the law say that having more guns on campus simply makes the campuses less safe. In fact, in July, three professors filed a lawsuit to block the law, saying it would have a “chilling effect” on academic freedom.

Third-year student Courtney Dang, speaking out against the law, said that the idea of more guns on campus scares her.

“There are so many students battling the stress of campus. Some are unstable and we don’t know who has a gun.”

In what is being described as merely a coincidence, the date the law goes into effect — August 1 — also happens to be the 50th anniversary of a gun crime at a Texas university.

On August 1, 1966, University of Texas at Austin engineering student Charles Whitman, who was also a Marine Corps-trained sniper, climbed to the top of the university’s iconic clock tower, armed with rifles, shotguns, and handguns. Over a 90-minute period, Whitman shot and killed 16 people — including an unborn baby — and injured 32 others. He was later shot dead by an Austin police officer.

Texas guns classrooms
University of Texas at Austin shooter Charles Whitman. [Image courtesy of The Austin History Center via Wikimedia Commons | Cropped and Resized | via License]

By some measures, the event was the first mass shooting in U.S. history.

The significance of that date was not lost on Greg Fenves, President of the university. As Fenves prepares to observe a memorial today, he dodged questions about the implementation of the new law.

“Regarding the time of the implementation date of Senate Bill 11 [the campus carry law], I have no comment on that. That is the way it is. They are separate issues. We are not connecting it in any way.”

He also made it clear that Monday’s memorial is about the victims who died that day, and not a commentary on the new law.

“It is a ceremony to remember the victims and the entire campus that was affected. It is not a memorial to make a commentary about campus carry.”

Do you believe Texas has made the right decision in allowing guns to be carried into classrooms on its college and university campuses?

[Image via Shutterstock/mikeledray]