Lawmakers To Hear Why Packing Heat Along With Books Is Good For Texas Colleges
It was April 16, 2007, when the quiet of an early morning was shattered at Virginia Tech University. A troubled senior armed with a 9-millimeter handgun, a 22-caliber handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition entered a building and walked from classroom to classroom shooting.
When the melee ended, he had killed 33 people — students, including himself, and faculty members — and wounded 17 others. It’s that incident some Texas lawmakers cite again as they try to pass legislation that would allow those with a concealed handgun license to bring their guns to campuses.
This is at least the second time that Granbury Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell has authored legislation that says a college campus is a publicly-owned space, where licensed gun owners should be allowed to exercise their constitutional rights.
“The Second Amendment, Article I, Section 23, is the provision that allows you the right to self-preservation. When you preclude that right, then what we did, or what Virginia Tech experienced in the state of Virginia was that Virginia said you may not,” said Birdwell.
He said that if there had been a campus carry law in Virginia at the time of the shooting, the outcome might have been different. “So when you create a circumstance of a known soft target, I mean I might get killed with the first shot, but I don’t want the second and third and fourth and fifth to kill with additional shots because we precluded a law-abiding citizen from exercising that right, simply because it was on a college campus,” Birdwell reiterated.
Under Birdwell’s bill there would still be areas on campus that would be off-limits to guns, including medical clinics, hospitals and places selling alcohol.
But some lawmakers with colleges and universities in their districts don’t agree that campus carry, as it’s called, makes students safer.
House Democrat Joe Farias’ district includes Texas A&M-San Antonio. He is also worried that the bill will increase the cost of security at the school. “You can imagine having security at a university where you have thousands of students and multiple or a multitude of entrances and exits to keep someone out,” Farias exclaimed.
On the University of Texas at San Antonio campus, students were divided on whether concealed handguns promoted safety or led to more problems.
Mathew Brisenio is a graduate student majoring in communications; he thinks having guns nearby could prevent mass killings. “Especially if they go through all of the training, the courses, the requirements, the background checks and all that stuff. If they want to go through it the right way to see that others are protected in a desperate time, I think it’s a good thing to have,” said Brisenio.
Charles Duncan, a graduate student in clinical psychology, was worried that gun owners would want to respond to a shooter on campus without having the training to do so. “It could be detrimental to bring weapons to campuses, or any kind of large public place with large numbers of people, out of the possibility of someone wanting to shoot somebody and someone else wanting to respond and shoot them,” said Duncan, adding that in the end, what could result, was “a massive shooting rampage.”
The Chancellor for the UT College System, Retired-Admiral William McRaven, was against guns on campus. He told the Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith that students with guns would intimidate faculty. “Why did the Founding Fathers put freedom of speech as the First Amendment? They may have done that because freedom of speech is incredibly important, and if you have guns on campus, I question whether or not that will inhibit their freedom of speech,” McRaven said.
When asked, how he envisaged that situation panning out, he responded: “Well, because if you are in a heated debate in the middle of some class and you don’t know if that individual is carrying, how does that not inhibit the interaction between students and faculty,” McRaven stated.
Birdwell believes he has enough lawmaker support to pass campus carry. He said 18 Republicans have signed-on as co-sponsors, and the Senate’s leader, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, is fast-tracking the bill through the hearing process.
If passed, Texas would join seven other states that allow guns on college and university campuses.
This Thursday, a state senate committee will hear testimony on a couple of interesting proposals; one supporting allowing guns on college campuses, the other allowing gun owners to carry arms openly.