Texas has joined the short list of states now permitting concealed weapon licensees to carry their firearms on college and university campuses.
Senate Bill 11 was signed into law last summer but didn’t go into effect until Aug. 1—exactly five decades after the first mass shooting took place on the University of Texas campus in Austin.
Under the new law, licensed gun holders may carry their weapons onto Texas campuses and inside buildings as long as they have a permit and are 21 or older. The law does leave room for college administrations to create gun-free zones as long as the adaptations do not hinder the spirit of the law. Other restrictions related to open carry are still in effect.
“The open carry of handguns is not allowed on the campus,” said Bob Harkins,
associate vice president of campus safety and security at UT-Austin, in a statement.
“There are several areas of campus in which the concealed carry of handguns is prohibited, including some portions of residence halls. Individuals with a license to carry are responsible for knowing the locations that exclude concealed handguns and to plan their daily activities carefully,” said Harkins, who chaired the Campus Carry Implementation Task Force.
Less than 1 percent of its student body holds a license to carry a firearm and no more than 500 students living in the residence halls meet the 21-year-old age requirement to even obtain a license to carry, according to the University of Texas at Austin.
Still, with mass shootings garnering more and more media coverage, college communities are voicing their concern about the new liberties. Three professors from the University of Texas have filed a lawsuit in response to the law that now allows concealed weapons in their classrooms.
The plaintiffs also raised concerns about the millions of concealed weapon holders around the country who are now legally allowed to carry on their campus due to “reciprocity agreements with 31 states.” These agreements allow Texas to recognize concealed weapon permits from other parts of the country.
Plaintiffs in the case list not only the Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton, but University of Texas at Austin President Gregory L. Fenves, and his entire board of regents.
Fenves said his hands are tied legally.
“I do not believe handguns belong on a university campus, so this decision has been the greatest challenge of my presidency to date. I empathize with the many faculty members, staffers, students and parents of students who signed petitions, sent emails and letters, and organized to ban guns from campus and especially classrooms,” said Fenves, in a statement. “As a professor, I understand the deep concerns raised by so many. However, as president, I have an obligation to uphold the law.”
Paxton called the lawsuit “frivolous” in a statement on the lawsuit filed by the UT professors.
“I’m confident it will be dismissed because the Legislature passed a constitutionally-sound law,” Attorney General Paxton said. “There is no legal justification to deny licensed, law-abiding citizens on campus the same measure of personal protection they are entitled to elsewhere in Texas.”
According to the National Conference on State Legislatures, Texas is the eighth state in the country to allow concealed weapons on college campuses. Eighteen states outright ban concealed weapons on college campuses and another 23 states allow each college or university to set their own rules regarding the carry of concealed weapons on the premises. Two states, Arkansas and Tennessee allow approved faculty members to carry concealed weapons, but the law does not include members of the student body or general public.