Concealed handguns would be prohibited among students in University of Texas dorms — but allowed in classrooms — under recommendations given to the school president Thursday in preparation for the state’s new campus-carry law.
The law taking effect in August requires public universities to designate specific areas where people with concealed handgun permits can carry their weapons. Lawmakers approved the law despite strong opposition from students, faculty and UT System Chancellor William McRaven, the former head of U.S. Special Operations Command who directed the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
McRaven has said the law would make campuses less safe.
The recommendations, compiled by a working group of faculty, students and others, still need to be reviewed by UT Austin President Greg Fenves and sent to the board of regents for approval.
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Fenves said Thursday that he has “deep concerns” about the law and its impact on campus safety.
“I will study the report closely and decide on our policy in the near future,” he said. “I have a responsibility to implement the law and will do so in a way that addresses the safety of our community.”
The working group, which included some gun owners and concealed-carry license holders, released a statement saying all members agreed with the “overwhelming sentiment on campus” to keep guns out of classrooms, but that they ultimately decided to allow it. University law professor Steve Goode, who led the group, said banning guns from classrooms would be considered a blanket ban specifically prohibited by the new law.
“Keeping them out of on-campus residence halls is a tiny sliver of our population. Classrooms affect 50,000 students,” Goode said.
In banning guns from dorms, the working group noted that most residents are under 21, the minimum age to get a concealed handgun permit. But visiting parents with permits would be allowed to carry. The recommendations also suggest banning guns from campus health centers, child-care facilities, certain laboratories and activities involving children.
License holders would have to keep guns in a holster. The panel decided against requiring that guns be kept in lockers, saying that would increase the chance of accidental discharge.
State law already bans guns from college sporting events.
The flagship campuses of the Texas A&M and Texas Tech university systems have not released proposed gun zones. Private universities are allowed to maintain their bans under the law, which lawmakers approved in May.
‘Impossible to control’
Gun-Free UT, a group of students, faculty and staff that has vigorously opposed guns on campus, said allowing weapons in classrooms would create a threatening atmosphere and chill free speech in academics.
“The purpose of the university is education and the creation of new knowledge,” the group said in a statement. “Guns will inevitably make their way into inappropriate locations and will be impossible to control.”
Advocates of the law also criticized the recommendations. Students for Concealed Carry complained that a requirement that semiautomatic weapons not have a chambered round of ammunition “flies in the face of accepted best practices taught by every shooting school, police academy and military branch” in the country.
Campus carry advocates say the right to have weapons falls under the Second Amendment, and they call it a crucial self-defense measure.
Opponents and supporters cite the 1966 mass shooting at the University of Texas, when Charles Whitman killed 16 people and wounded dozens more from his perch atop the campus clock tower.
Texas and seven other states have provisions allowing concealed weapons on public postsecondary campuses; the others are Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.