With 10 states allowing guns on college campuses, will campus carry be part of the college discussion at your dinner table?
Three years ago on a broiling hot day in August, I walked across the campus at the University of Texas in Austin with my high school daughter, a rising senior. We toured the school while I told her stories about the four years I spent there.
I pointed out buildings where I took my favorite History classes and the stadium where we watched Heisman Trophy winner Earl Campbell help Texas earn a #1 football ranking. I talked about my best friend and roommate, Ann, our late night trips to Mrs. Johnson’s Donuts and afternoons at Scholz Beer Garten. I told her how my love, respect, and support for UT had never wavered, despite leaving home, Texas, to live in New York, in my mid-20s.
I gave her my best and most sincere pitch on “why UT.” Politely indulging my reminiscences, I knew she would make up her own mind to apply (or not) weighing its enrollment, location, academics, social scene… the criteria on which she judged each of the dozen schools on her list.
Last week, I asked her if she was touring schools now, would she add one more criterion – “campus carry” – the policy of allowing college students to carry concealed weapons onto school property.
It was not a random question.
Today, August 1, 2016, UT begins it’s era of campus carry, a measure enacted by the Legislature in a victory for gun rights proponents.
“Yes,” she said, “it would have mattered to me.” As her mom, it would have mattered a great deal to to me, too.
Why Did the University of Texas Adopt Campus Carry?
UT Austin had the first mass killing on a college campus, fifty years ago today, August 1, 1966, when 25-year old student, Eagle Scout and Marine veteran, Charles Whitman, climbed the steps to the clock tower at the heart of the campus, and, with his sharp-shooting skills, killed 17 people and wounded more than 30 others.
During the 96 minutes he took aim from the observation deck, people on campus and the immediate area were plunged into the nightmarish situation of an “active shooter,” a term unknown then but that has become tragically familiar in the decades since.
As word got out that day via local TV and radio broadcast, bystanders rushed to campus, some firing back with hunting rifles they hastily fetched, creating a terrifying shoot-out, until Austin police officers bravely climbed the steps in the tower. They shot and killed Whitman, stopping the carnage. Video clips shown in yesterday’s Washington Post, show the day’s horror.
The Tower, an award-winning documentary that my daughter and I saw in at a premier screening in New York City last month, tells the stories of lives lost and those forever damaged.
Today, UT dedicates a six-foot tall Texas-pink granite memorial to the 17 victims, the youngest of whom was “Baby Boy Wilson.” He was the unborn child killed when 18-year old student Claire Wilson, 8-months pregnant, was shot and lay wounded on the searing concrete mall fighting for her life during the siege until a fellow student carried her to safety. Within the live feed on my phone, I heard her speak today, with words of grace and kindness, during the Memorial Service.
It is also the day that UT fully implements the campus carry law.
Why Are Both Events Happening Today? Are They Related?
It’s impossible to ignore the gun violence connection between the memorial to a deadly campus shooting and campus carry laws. Proponents of arming students in Texas and elsewhere suggest that campuses could be safer if more students and faculty, the “good guys,” can fight armed assailants with weapons of their own.
Had it been about logic or evidence, the reasons put forward by William H. McRaven, the chancellor of the University of Texas and a former Navy SEAL, and Art Acevedo, chief of the Austin Police Department – both of whom know a thing or two about the subject – would have been heeded. They both opposed the new legislation with a similar argument: Allowing concealed weapons on campuses will create “less-safe” environments. When there are more guns around, there is more risk – it’s as simple as that.
Will Campus Carry Impact Your Student’s College Search?
There are currently 10 states that allow guns on college campuses including Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin, and each state has their own rules and regulations which you can learn about here:
In Texas, for instance, it is only the public schools, not the private universities where this law is being implemented. Students must be 21 and have a “License to Carry,” which requires other restrictions on the licensee. Guns will not be allowed in dorms, at sporting events, or in venues where alcohol is more than 51% of revenue. There are links on the website for students, parents, faculty,staff, and visitors.
If your teen is looking at schools in Texas or one of these other nine states, will you ask about campus carry on your college tour?
Will this impact how you think about private colleges and universities versus public ones, subject to more restrictions and laws passed by state governments?
If guns are allowed in student housing, will your teen request a roommate who has a similar gun philosophy to their own? Will they have gun lockers?
Will you add “gun” to the list of school supplies and dorm essentials you purchase for your kid?
Do you have concerns about passionate academic discourse leading to armed classroom rage like some faculty members have expressed?
Today is the beginning of a new era of campus carry for UT students and faculty. Does it mean you and your student have one more thing to consider when considering college?
Note: My daughter applied to and was admitted to UT but decided to attend my husband’s alma mater, UVA. Her faculty advisor (and UT graduate) with concerns over campus carry, took himself out of the running for the position as a dean at UT.
Photo credit: Larry D. Moore CC BY-SA 3.0