Not long after a Texas Tech student was accused of fatally shooting a university police officer Monday night, social media erupted with comments about the year-old law that allows Texans to carry concealed handguns on many college campuses.
Some maintain that allowing guns on campus is a bad idea, while others defend the law and point out that the alleged shooter — Hollis Daniels III, 19, who has been charged with capital murder — isn’t even old enough to legally carry a gun on campus.
Lubbock police say that Daniels confessed to killing officer Floyd East Jr., after the student had been arrested on a drug charge and taken to Tech’s police headquarters. Authorities have not determined where Daniels got the gun used in the shooting. East’s service revolver was still holstered.
“As long as there is gun-related violence on college campuses, campus carry will be in the spotlight,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “The issue is politically intractable, even in the aftermath of tragic gun-related deaths.
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“Republicans generally won’t budge on limiting gun rights and Democrats will oppose efforts to expand gun rights.”
Monday night, the Texas Democratic Party tweeted that “allowing concealed guns on college campuses was a dumb and dangerous idea. Stay safe, Raiders.”
By Tuesday, the party had apologized, removed the tweet and acknowledged that the shooter wasn’t eligible for a License to Carry.
Last year, Texas became one of 10 states to allow campus carry. But the only people legally allowed to carry concealed handguns on campus are those who are 21, have a license to carry and have met requirements including training and proficiency tests.
“The truth is, like millions of Americans, we’re frustrated,” said Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party. “We’re tired of hearing ‘thoughts and prayers’ from politicians who avoid conversations about real solutions to our nation’s gun violence epidemic. We’re tired of politicians shrugging tragedy off. We’re tired of seeing Americans die.
“We believe law enforcement officials should be the only ones with firearms on campus. We believe we should do everything possible to keep guns out of the hands of those who would do evil. We believe sensible gun laws can do something about America’s shameful gun violence.”
Earlier this month, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — who signed campus carry into law in 2015 — tweeted that “concealed carry poses no danger on Texas college campuses. The dire consequences never happened. @NRA #guns #txlege.”
Monday night, he offered condolences to the deceased police officer’s family and noted that he mobilized the Texas Department of Public Safety to help in any way possible.
“As the Texas Tech campus deals with this heartbreaking tragedy, Cecilia and I pray for the continued safety of the students and the entire community,” Abbott said in a statement.
Texans and guns
Texas lawmakers passed two key gun measures in 2015 — one allowing licensed Texans to openly carry their handguns around the state and one allowing licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns into buildings at public universities.
Open carry is not allowed at colleges.
“Texans can be assured that their Second Amendment rights will be stronger and more secure than ever before,” Abbott said when he signed the gun proposals into law.
Public universities such as the University of Texas at Arlington and Texas A&M University School of Law in Fort Worth were allowed to designate gun-free zones on part but not all of the campus, which they did.
Texas Tech rules say that anyone carrying on campus must have a License To Carry, the weapon must be concealed at all times and anyone carrying must avoid various areas on campus where guns are not allowed, such as the chapel, the recreation center, any Texas Tech sporting event and anywhere counseling is provided.
Late Monday, Texas Tech police made a welfare check on Daniels, a freshman from Seguin, and found drugs and drug paraphernalia in his room. Daniels was arrested — but not handcuffed — and taken to the campus police department, where the shooting occurred. He fled after the shooting, prompting a campus lock down that lasted around an hour before he was found.
Tuesday morning, Daniels was charged with capital murder and was being held on a $5 million bond in Lubbock. On Sept. 23, Daniels had been arrested on a drug charge by campus police.
Concerns and support
Many Texans were concerned about the impact the law would have in Texas.
Texas Tech staffers were among those petitioning against campus carry; professors at the University of Texas even unsuccessfully sued to overturn the law.
Local college officials have said they haven’t seen problems with the concealed handgun law, one year after it went into effect.
“The first year of campus carry at the law school has been smooth and uneventful,” Aric Short, a vice dean at the Texas A&M law school in Fort Worth, has said. “As we expected, our community has acted responsibly and professionally when it comes to campus carry.”
This article contains information from The Associated Press and Dallas Morning News.