Less than a year before concealed handguns will become commonplace at colleges and universities statewide, students at Texas Christian University remain sharply divided on whether the weapons should be allowed on their campus.
Some say this is a matter of personal protection; others believe allowing guns on campus would change the entire academic environment of the private university.
“The right to defend your own life isn’t something you should have to prove the need for,” said Shelby Whitson, a junior political science major, who argued that concealed handguns should be allowed on campus.
Timothy Betts, a junior philosophy and economics major, disagreed, saying letting guns on TCU’s campus would change student and professor attitudes and everything about the atmosphere of the campus.
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“When we allow concealed carry on campus, we are creating the perception that we don’t know if there’s a gun,” he said, adding that the uncertainty would “dampen academic discourse.”
These arguments came during an hourlong debate at TCU, which was geared to help students and faculty learn more about the issue before university officials vote later this year on whether to allow the guns on campus.
The issue of where — or whether — to allow concealed handguns on college campuses statewide has been heating up since lawmakers earlier this year passed a measure known as “campus carry,” letting licensed Texans carry concealed handguns at universities starting next August and at community colleges in 2017.
Private colleges may opt out, if they so choose, and public universities may create gun-free zones on part, but not all, of the campus.
But before private universities can decide whether or not to allow guns on campus, they are required to get feedback from students and faculty alike.
A separate measure allowing licensed Texans to openly carry holstered handguns throughout the state goes into effect Jan. 1 but does not apply to college campuses.
Texans with concealed handgun licenses have been able to carry on college campuses, but not in buildings, since lawmakers approved the concealed carry law 20 years ago, lawmakers say.
This new measure lets them carry them into dorms or classrooms, instead of requiring them to take their handguns back to their vehicles before entering the buildings.
The only people legally allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus are those who have a concealed handgun permit — meaning they are at least 21 and have met various requirements including training and passing proficiency tests.
Two forums are scheduled to discuss the Campus Carry law: 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesday in Steve and Sarah Smith Entrepreneurs Hall; and 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sept. 29 in Brown-Lupton University Union.
Supporters say campus carry is needed to let teachers and students defend themselves. Opponents have said concealed handguns will make campuses less safe because stress and guns are a bad mix.
Officials at public colleges have said the plan could cost nearly $50 million in coming years — because additional officers, training, storage facilities and security technology would be needed — and that expense that might be passed to students.
About 850,000 Texans have concealed handgun licenses.
Donald Griffin, a junior journalism major, argued that TCU should join private universities in Texas in allowing the guns on campus.
“We are just as equipped as anyone at a public institution to take on the rights ... [of] personal protection and personal responsibility,” he said.
And he said teachers shouldn’t be intimidated by the thought that an irate student might be carrying a concealed weapon.
“One hundred percent of TCU professors can take it upon themselves to go out and get a concealed handgun license,” he said.