Students with guns, the new reality
Law that has divided universities across the state since it’s passing is set to go in effect.
In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed S.B. 11, also known as the “campus carry” that allows license holders of at least 21 years of age to carry a concealed handgun on university campuses.
Tensions have flared between groups that are anti-guns and those who are advocates of the second amendment.
Dr. Christine Ehlig-Economides, a petroleum engineering professor, posed a stark opposition to the new law during the University of Houston’s campus carry forum in November saying that members of national academies, who bring prestige and funding to the school, will refuse to participate in any activities affiliated with the university.
“I will not teach in a classroom with guns. I will not go to an office in a building where they are allowed. I have other options,” Ehlig-Economides said during the forum.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, all 50 states allow citizens to carry concealed weapons if they meet certain state requirements. Currently, there are 19 states that ban carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus. In 23 states, the decision to ban or allow concealed carry weapons on campuses is made by each college or university individually.
This law does not allow university presidents from public colleges to prohibit license holders from carrying concealed weapons on campus, but it does give some discretion to regulate campus carry. For example, universities can designate certain areas on campus where concealed handguns are prohibited.
Alex Colvin, a senior history student from UH and founder of the organization, Gun Free UH, started the group as an opposition to the new law after having traumatizing experiences related to gun violence.
“Nobody wants it. I’ve invested tens of thousands dollars in this school. I don’t want to see that blow up in my face, because some untrained amateur who thinks he has a right to abuse the second amendment misfires his weapon for what he hasn’t been adequately trained to use and something harmful happens to me or somebody else,” said Colvin. “ I have personal experience being held up by guns, being robbed by guns. I have personally experienced witnessing people being scared by guns, so I know how lethal it can be in the wrong hands.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety requires a minimum of four hours of training for a new applicant to obtain a concealed handgun license. The class includes four hours of classroom instruction and range qualification.
“That is not enough training to prepare you for a mass shooting scenario,” said Colvin.
UH and Texas A&M are still working on creating policies that comply with the new Campus Carry law.
Private institutions like Rice University, Southern Methodist University, Texas Christian University, Baylor and the University of St. Thomas have the choice of opting out of the law and recently they have all released statements opting out.
While universities are trying to create special committees to address the new law, students have created groups on Facebook, where they’ve expressed their opinions about campus carry law.
Randy Mayhall and other members of the group Students for Concealed Carry on Campus University of Houston (SCCUH) have rallied in defense of the new law.
“I am for the law. If you are a law obeying citizen and you go through all the rigorous training, you should be allowed to carry on campus,” said Mayhall. “I carry concealed firearms everywhere, except campus. There is nothing to stop anyone from just carrying a gun on campus anyway, so why shouldn’t the people who are lawfully allowed to carry guns carry them on campus?”
Randy Mayhall said he hopes the campus carry law will make campuses safer and said whenever he sees a person carrying a gun, he will call the police just to make sure the person has a concealed handgun permit.
“We are going to do whatever it takes to get this thing repealed. Whatever the law allows us to do in terms of civil disobedience, that’s what we are going to do,” said Colvin.