The tragic shooting yesterday at the Umpqua Community College, in the small town of Roseburg, Oregon, prompted reactions across college campuses in Texas, a state where campus carry goes into effect starting next school year. It also brought out voices for and against the new law including some Obama-style politicization.
“Gun free UT” politicized the shootings at a protest yesterday held at the flagship Austin campus, expressing their opposition to licensed campus carry. According to KEYE-TV (CBS), 163 faculty members say they will refuse having guns in their classrooms. UT history professor Joan Neuberger, who totally opposes guns on campus, organized Gun Free UT. She contemplates holding some act of civil disobedience in response to the campus carry law, according to the Austin American-Statesman. “I’ve pledged to prohibit guns in my classroom, but I haven’t decided what that means for me,” Neuberger said.
Campus carry advocates showed up to make their voices heard at Gun Free UT. First year law student Justin Stone debunked the liberal spin about pro-campus carry supporters. “We are not vigilantes,” he told the Statesman. “We are not bad guys you read about in the news. CHL holders have proven to be trustworthy with a firearm.”
However, two pro-campus carry supporters were silenced quickly at Gun Free UT, arrested for criminal trespass and accused of disrupting a rally held on a reserved place. Student Jerome Williamson, a member of Lonestar Gun Rights, told reporters “The first thing a tyrant does it take weapons away from people.”
More subdued and sympathetic reactions characterized the responses at other campuses.
Like many institutions, Austin Community College (ACC) sent their sympathies to Umpqua Community College in a statement. ACC officials emphasized that safety is a top priority. The college houses the third largest police department in Travis County and officers regularly conduct emergency preparedness weeks, partnering with other agencies for on-campus emergency drills every semester with staff, faculty and students. ACC devotes web pages to reporting and surviving an active shooter situation.
Most Texas colleges echoed taking these precautionary measures. Student Affairs Vice President Gary Edens at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) told KFOX 14 the campus already conducted one active shooter training school this year and uses the prevalent comprehensive emergency alert system that sends messages directly to students’ smartphones and staff on campus, a campus-wide speaker system and blue emergency towers to access campus police immediately in case of any distress.
In addition to the emergency notification system, El Paso Community College Chief of Police Jose Ramirez emphasized their officers are armed, hastening response time, according to KTSM-TV (NBC). “We also have had extensive training on how to respond to these type of incidents.”
Grayson College Police Chief Andrew Macpherson commented: “We always try to be inquisitive, and try to find out if there were any warning signs, that maybe we can look for in our own community.” Students at the North Texas college have ID tags with run, hide, and fight information. On campus posters and instruction booklets advise students how to handle emergency situations plus students have ID tags with run, hide, and fight information.
Still, Alamo Colleges Police Lt. Joe Curiel reminded KENS 5 (ABC) that tragedies like this can happen at any time and any place. He said that law enforcement trains for active shooter incidents, constantly reviews security measures, collaborates with its students and staff and participates in awareness drills that keep their five campuses as safe as possible. He believes with the proper awareness training, everyone can survive an active shooter.
By August 1, 2016, Senate Bill 11 known as “campus carry” goes into effect at Texas public universities. Private universities can opt out and it won’t go into effect at the state’s community colleges until 2017. Texans must be 21-years-old to obtain a concealed-carry license, thus, many students wll not be eligible. Also, the law requires gun-free zones. Schools like UTEP, and North Texas universities including the University of Texas (UT) at Arlington and at Dallas are determining where those gun free zones will be located on their campuses.
School security expert John Setser told KTVT-11 (CBS) that college campuses will remain a “soft target” for shooters unless something changes. Although Setser supports campus carry, he does not believe “every student should be allowed to carry a weapon on campus.” He added: “But I think there are some students that should be allowed to carry weapons and defend themselves and defends others from things like this from happening.”
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