The Lone Star State was already busy with their open carry law this year, but over the weekend they doubled down and expanded Second Amendment rights for Texans in another area. Dubbed “campus-carry” by supporters, under new legislation currently heading for the Governor’s desk qualified concealed carry permit holders will now be able to bring their weapons onto college and university campuses… at least some of the time. (From the New York Times)
Students and faculty members at public and private universities in Texas could be allowed to carry concealed handguns into classrooms, dormitories and other buildings under a bill passed over the weekend by the Republican-dominated Legislature. The measure is being hailed as a victory by gun rights advocates and criticized by many students and professors as irresponsible and unnecessary.
The so-called campus-carry bill is expected to be signed into law by the Republican governor, Greg Abbott. It would take effect in August 2016 at universities and August 2017 at community colleges…
The bill that passed in Texas was something of a compromise that allows private universities to opt out and public ones to designate parts of their campuses as gun-free zones. But coming at a time when legislatures have allowed guns at places from bars to houses of worship, it reflects the seemingly limitless legislative clout of gun interests, particularly in Republican-dominated states.
The intent of this bill is great, even if the effects are going to be somewhat diluted. (More on that below.) College campuses have been tempting fruit for deranged mass shooters, largely because they are primarily “gun free” zones which immediately identifies them as safe, soft targets. With plenty of people crowded into a relatively small area and virtually no chance of anyone being armed and ready to fire back at you, the pickings are pretty lush for a dangerous maniac. Conversely, if the aspiring killer has even a shred of common sense left rattling around in their melon, knowing that dozens of people might whip out their own personal defense systems and ruin your day might just give them cause to think twice.
Unfortunately, as I alluded to previously, the actual effect of this bill will be considerably watered down by both existing laws and certain provisions injected by Texas Democrats. First of all, the minimum legal age to even apply for a concealed carry permit in Texas is 21, so the number of eligible carriers on campuses will be limited to a small percentage of seniors, the faculty, and the relatively small number of veterans and other continuing education adult students who may be enrolled. Still, even that number may give an attacker pause and cause them to seek out easier targets.
The second, and probably far more problematic factor is the “opt out” which is built into the legislation.
The bill gives private and independent colleges the option of opting out entirely. Public colleges have no such option, but lawmakers allowed university presidents at public institutions to come up with concealed-weapons regulations that could let them establish gun-free zones on their campuses. The bill says university officials can establish “reasonable rules,” but states those regulations cannot “generally prohibit” license holders from carrying concealed handguns on campus.
We generally tend to think of Texas as a freedom zone full of rugged, independent thinkers who value things such as their Second Amendment rights. But that doesn’t mean that their universities are free of liberal dogma and group-think. Any number of their private universities may choose to turn around immediately and opt out of campus-carry entirely. In that case, carriers wouldn’t be subject to arrest, but students could be expelled and staff fired. And if the school goes that route, you can be sure that they’ll be crowing about it in the local media. That would pretty much negate any potential benefit and identify the campus as a good place to begin mowing down coeds. As for the public colleges, they may not be able to opt out entirely, but the word “reasonable” in the legislation leaves a lot of wiggle room, and their “gun free zones” may wind up comprising the entire campus except for one portapotty in the parking lot. The effect would be the same.
Still, for all its flaws, Texas has managed to take a step in the right direction. Perhaps other states will learn from this example and follow suit.