Aug. 1 — that’s a key date circled on calendars at colleges and universities throughout Texas.
That’s the date by which signs must be posted and information provided on whether or not each university in Texas will allow concealed handguns to be carried on its campus — and if so, where.
“Given the narrow tailoring of the law to allow only individuals who can possess a concealed handgun and limited places where carrying is allowed, the likelihood of many walking around campus with handguns is pretty unlikely,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston.
But officials know they need to let students know whether carrying guns is legal in the first place.
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And if it is, they need to let them know where they can carry them.
That’s why college officials throughout Tarrant County have been busy revamping handbooks, posting notes online — and posting new signs around campus.
All this is a result of a law known as “campus carry” that Texas legislators passed last year.
That law, as of Aug. 1, lets licensed adults carry concealed handguns into buildings at public universities in Texas. As of Aug. 1, 2017, it’s legal at community colleges as well.
And public universities such as the University of Texas at Arlington had the ability to designate gun-free zones on part but not all of the campus, which they did.
I think we are ready.
Aric Short, vice dean at the Texas A&M University School of Law
The only people legally allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus are law enforcement and those who have a concealed handgun permit, meaning they are at least 21 and have met requirements that include training and proficiency tests.
Open carry is not allowed on college campuses.
The new law takes effect before many students return for the fall semester, meaning that students will return to find new signs, instruction manuals and more already in place regarding campus carry.
Private colleges that opted out of campus carry have been working on signs to let people know that concealed handguns are not allowed on campus.
At TCU, officials are preparing to post signs in English and Spanish and they are also working to update information in both the faculty/staff and student handbooks as well, said Holly Ellman, a spokeswoman with the university.
And at Texas Wesleyan, workers have already put up more than a half-dozens signs across campus, mainly at visitor parking lots and entrances, noting that concealed handguns aren’t allowed, said Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for the university.
More information about the prohibition of guns should soon be posted online, she said.
At public universities, officials are busy designating which areas are off limits to guns, since concealed handguns are allowed on most of the campus.
At UTA, campus carry will be allowed in most areas — but not in restricted areas such as College Park Center, where sporting events are held. Signs are now being posted around campus noting areas where concealed handguns are not allowed.
The safety and security of our campus community is of the greatest importance and is the top priority of all of us at UTA.
A statement posted online by from the UTA Campus Carry Committee
“The safety and security of our campus community is of the greatest importance and is the top priority of all of us at UTA,” according to a note posted online from the UTA Campus Carry Committee. “Training, education and resource materials are being provided to prepare everyone for campus carry.”
UTA officials have also been updating their concealed handgun policy and posting it online. This information will be included in student orientation.
“We are trying to ensure we communicate this effectively to the entire campus community,” said John Hall, UTA’s vice president for administration and campus operations.
At the Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth, Vice Dean Aric Short has been studying the issue of campus carry — and which areas should be off limits to guns — for about a year.
Short said the law school will have signs posted by Aug. 1 designating areas where concealed handguns may not be carried, such as clinical facilities and areas where formal administrative hearings or investigations are under way.
“I think we are ready,” Short said. “The committee has worked very hard all year long coming up with a draft set of rules and we are working now on implementation.
“I think it’s a thoughtful, comprehensive set of rules.”