About that Texas professor quitting over campus carry...

There’s been a little bit of a hullabaloo over a University of Texas professor saying he’s quitting over the state’s new campus carry law. Daniel Hamermesh wrote to UT President Greg Fenves he wouldn’t teach class in Fall 2016 because he was worried about his safety.

In some semesters these groups of 18-year-olds constituted the largest single course on campus…With a huge group of students my perception is that the risk that a disgruntled student might bring a gun into the classroom and start shooting at me has been substantially enhanced by the concealed carry law.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be safe, but Hamermesh shows a clear misunderstanding of Texas conceal carry law. Here are the requirements from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s website (emphasis mine).

The Concealed Handgun Law sets out the eligibility criteria that must be met. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age (unless active duty military) and must meet Federal qualifications to purchase a handgun.  A number of factors may make you ineligible to obtain a license, such as: felony convictions and some misdemeanor convictions, including charges that resulted in probation or deferred adjudication; pending criminal charges; chemical or alcohol dependency; certain types of psychological diagnoses protective or restraining orders, and defaults on state or city taxes, governmental fees, or child support.

So Hamermesh is “quitting” over a law which doesn’t really affect his class because he mostly teaches 18-year-olds. The only students who would potentially be carrying are 21 and up. But Hamermesh’s defenders don’t think this matters. Del Mar College Professor John M. Crisp wrote in The Dallas Morning News how scary being in front of possibly armed students will be (emphasis mine).

He might hope that his armed students will be well-trained, mature, cool-headed, judicious and, of course, good shots. But it’s easy to see why he might be skeptical. The bar for obtaining a handgun in our country is quite low and, as the recent Umpqua Community College shooting indicates, our country hasn’t erected many barriers between handguns and the mentally unstable.

Let’s look at the law shall we? Here’s what Texas requires CHL applicants do before they get a license.

An original (first-time) CHL applicant must complete four to six hours of classroom training, pass a written examination and pass a proficiency demonstration (shooting). All classroom and proficiency must be conducted by a CHL instructor certified by DPS. See CHL Qualification Course Requirements (PDF) for the proficiency demonstration requirements. There are four (4) required topics: Use of Force, Non-Violent Dispute Resolution, Handgun Use, and Safe and Proper Storage of Handguns and Ammunition. 

So the state isn’t just handing out CHL’s to anyone who wants to get one. There are rules to follow, much like there are with a driver’s test. But that’s not stopping Hamermesh from saying he’s worried about being shot. He told The Daily Caller one student might still go after him.

“And even if there were only one, this increases the chances of that one carrying the gun around, getting upset in my office, and pulling the gun on me.”

It’s obvious he’s worried about the unknown, which is understandable. The unknown sucks because it can be big and scary and unpredictable. But Hamermesh is failing to use logic here when it comes to guns. If a bad guy wants to use a gun, he or she will get a hold of one and carry it regardless of the law. This means there has to be a buffer against bad guys which isn’t “just” the local police or sheriff’s office. It’s on the individual to make sure he or she is protected against exterior threats. A blanket ban or militarized security won’t stop anything because they can’t be everywhere. Since Hamermesh doesn’t want to buy a weapon to protect himself, he’s moving to Australia (which is his choice). Other professors could decide to switch to private universities (which are exempt from Texas’ campus carry law). There are options which professors can take if they think guns on campus is too much. The same goes for parents and students. If they’re worried about guns, they can go elsewhere. No one’s forcing them to stay at the school they’re attending.

The funny thing about all this is Hamermesh wasn’t going to be sticking around Texas to begin with. He was already planning to retire in 2017, so he’s just leaving two semesters early. His retirement is much ado about nothing, even if there are those out there who want to make it seem otherwise. Is Hamermesh trying to be a martyr for the anti-gun crowd? Maybe, maybe not. He says he’s not, and only he knows the truth. It’s just too bad he doesn’t understand the law. If he did, Hamermesh and other anti-gun professors might be a little more willing to have armed students in their classrooms.