The application of the state’s Campus Carry Law at community and junior colleges across Texas kicked off with a whimper—not a bang—on Tuesday (Aug. 1), to no surprise of TSRA Legislative Director Alice Tripp.
“This effort started in 2007 and we’ve gone through four sessions of the Legislature and 10 public hearings,” said Tripp, who works closely with legislators as a representative of the Texas State Rifle Association.
“It has required a lot of work and effort.
“Now we will focus on making sure the state colleges follow the letter of the law,” she added, noting that every regular session of the Legislature colleges must send a report about their specific rules and regulations pertaining to the law and why they created them.
She said dire predictions of problems by the anti-gun crowd have proven to be groundless, just as when the law took effect at four-year public colleges on Aug. 1, 2016.
“There have been firearms on campuses since 1996—in the parking lots, on the grounds, in the dorms—this just opens up carrying firearms into buildings and classrooms.
“I am sure that students have been sitting next to someone carrying a handgun into a classroom all along. They were just doing it without permission—now they have permission,” she said.
Tripp pointed out that the negative attention on the issue has been focused mainly on students carrying firearms, while the driving force behind the effort to allow licensed carry on campus has come from faculty and staff members at the institutions of higher learning.
“What the faculty and staff members have told us is that they wanted to feel safe walking to their car in the parking lot after dark or in other areas where they might face a threat,” she said.
With the backing and support of the TSRA, state Senator Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, filled SB 11, also known as the Campus Carry Law. It passed during the 2015 Legislative session.
Tripp noted that incidents related to the implementation of the law last year at four-year public colleges have been limited to one accidental discharge where no one was injured and a couple of cases where licensed concealed-carry holders inadvertently entered restricted areas.
Campus Carry Legal Issues
On the legal side of the issue, three University of Texas at Austin professors sued the state and the university after enactment of the Campus Carry Law, claiming that the potential presence of guns in classrooms has a chilling effect on class discussion.
A federal judge rejected their claims, ruling that the professors failed to present any “concrete evidence to substantiate their fears.”
Colleges may ban or restrict firearms from certain areas of the campuses. The Legislature must review these restrictions every other year.
There was at least one demonstration opposing the implementation of the state law at community and junior colleges on Tuesday. It was a one-man protest by a San Antonio College geography instructor.
According to the San Antonio Express-News, the 60-year-old instructor conducted classes on Tuesday while wearing a Kevlar helmet and a flak jacket in his protest of the law.
Reaction on the comments page of the paper was mostly negative. One reader wrote that the instructor’s action was a “melodramatic and buffoonish spectacle in protest of the constitutional right of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves.” —by Ralph Winingham, Contributor, U.S. and Texas LawShield blog