A&M concealed carry policy allows guns in dorm, class

Texas A&M Corps of Cadets marches past the Tarrant County Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth before a football game in September 2014.
Texas A&M Corps of Cadets marches past the Tarrant County Courthouse in downtown Fort Worth before a football game in September 2014. Star-Telegram archives

Texas A&M University’s proposed new campus carry rules include few major restrictions for handguns and will allow the weapons in classrooms and dormitories.

The proposed rules have been approved by Chancellor John Sharp and A&M System legal staff. They will be reviewed by regents later this month. State law doesn’t require board approval of campus carry rules, but does allow regents to amend the rules if they disagree with them.

The smaller universities in the A&M System will also allow guns in classrooms and dorms, minus three exceptions. Prairie View A&M, Texas A&M International University and A&M-Corpus Christi each have dorms that are leased by third-party companies. Those companies will be able to decide on their own whether they want to ban guns in their facilities.

The rules are designed to comply with the state’s campus carry law, which was approved last year. The law allows concealed license holders to carry their weapons on campus in most cases. But universities are allowed to declare some limited areas gun-free, as long as those areas don’t have the effect of making it impossible to carry a gun on campus.

In Texas, concealed handgun licenses are available only to people over the age of 21, so many undergraduates will still be unable to carry guns.

The law generated strong opposition from some university leaders, especially officials affiliated with the University of Texas System. But administrators at A&M have never expressed much concern. Sharp said in a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick before the law was approved last year that that he didn’t have any problem with the idea.

“Do I trust my students, faculty and staff to work and live responsibly under the same laws at the university as they do at home?” Sharp wrote. “Of course I do!”

That attitude appears to be reflected in the rules. The law has prompted many professors and gun control supporters across the state to call for bans in classrooms, dormitories and professors’ offices. Most public universities have opted not to ban guns in classrooms, but a few, including the University of Texas at Austin, have imposed bans in certain dormitories and other places. Most private universities, which have a choice of whether to comply with the law, have chosen to opt out.

A&M appears to be making little effort to ban guns in places where they wouldn’t already be banned by the law. A&M will ban them at sporting events, child care facilities and places where student disciplinary hearings are held. Facilities on the campus that are leased by private companies will be allowed to make their own decisions about whether they want to ban guns.

Particular employees will be allowed to ban guns in their own assigned offices if the employee has the president’s approval and “has demonstrated that the carrying of a concealed handgun by a license holder in the office presents a significant risk of substantial harm due to a negligent discharge of the handgun,” according to the proposed rules.