Oct. 14, 2015
Fifty years to the day that Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the University of Texas Tower shooting 43 people and killing 13, Senate Bill 11, colloquially known as “Campus Carry”, will be implemented at the University of Texas at Austin.
According to the FBI, there has been an average of more than 11 mass shootings in the U.S. each year between 2000 and 2013. In the wake of yet another campus shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon Oct. 1, the conversation about guns on college campuses continues at the University of Texas at Austin as President Fenves decides how to implement S.B. 11, signed into effect June 1.
S.B. 11 allows for the carrying of concealed handguns by licensed holders on campus. A person must be at least 21 years of age to hold a concealed handgun license. UT estimates CHL holders to be less than 1 percent of the student population. With the passing of S.B. 11, it remains illegal for a person to openly display a firearm both in campus buildings and on campus sidewalks and streets. For 20 years, CHL holders have been able to carry concealed handguns on campus; however, S.B 11 extends this right into classrooms and offices.
S.B. 11 allows for each university to regulate the carrying of concealed handguns on campus and the storage of handguns in dormitories and residential facilities, yet the rules enacted may not “generally prohibit” license holders from carrying guns on UT campus.
Fenves has established a 19-member working group that will recommend how the law should be enacted on the Forty Acres. The working group held two forums to hear from students, faculty and staff and alumni, who were given the opportunity to present to members of the working group how S.B. 11 should be sanctioned.
Madison Yandell, UT government major from Wichita Falls, Texas and president of the College Republicans at Texas, said that she wanted to echo Fenves’ statement that this is not a safety issue, rather a perception issue.
“As a female student, campus carry on campus would allow me to have the knowledge that I can protect myself from violence walking to and from campus, especially in high crime areas,” Yandell said.
Justin Stone, senior law student and CHL holder from Austin, said that he chooses to carry because he likes to be prepared.
“I do not want to have to use my firearm, but I am not afraid to do so,” Stone said. “I ask that we please continue to have faith in the law-abiding citizen and adopt the least restricting campus carry policy we can.”
Stone says that Campus Carry will not largely impact his daily routine.
“I’m going to be the same man exercising the same judgment with which I am entrusted today,” Stone said.
In the wake of all the discussion surrounding Campus Carry, UT alumna Jessica Jin, a 24-year-old San Antonio native currently living in Austin, created a Facebook page, “Campus (DILDO) Carry”, where more than 9,000 have vowed to join, carrying dildos on campus to protest how ridiculous it is that guns should be allowed.
“I need this proliferation of dildos to offer people a visual representation of what it would be like if we all carried guns. It should look ridiculous to you. That is the point. This is America; if guns and bloodshed don’t wake people up, a public celebration of sexuality may just do the trick. We’re going to need a lot of dildos,” Jin said.
In response to the amount of media coverage the event has already received, Jin says that she is “grateful that the eyes of the world are now on the Texas Legislature and UT.”
Fenves is set to announce his policies regarding by the end of November. UTPD says that they’re working closely with the working group, discussing what it would look like for guns to be on campus.
“I know that it is my hope that with Campus Carry law there is training for people who want to carry,” Officer William Pieper said.
Melysa Barth, 22, a senior education major and current student government parliamentarian from Houston said that at its core, Campus Carry is an issue dividing UT students and faculty and that she can see the issue from both sides.
“As a TA, I would not want my students having guns out during class. But as a student and a firm believer in our constitutional rights, I do believe we have the right to protect ourselves. This law is simply in place to help us better protect ourselves in the event our life is threatened.” Barth said.