National “Big Higher Education” lobbyist organizations joined forces to gang up on Texas in an anti-campus carry statement that zeroed in on the University of Texas (UT) at Austin where days ago, activist Gun Free UT lawyered up in an effort to thwart the implementation of the new state law.
Special interest groups, the American Association of University Professors, the Association of American Colleges and Universities, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the nation’s second largest teachers union and a prolific education lobbyist, signed the statement opposing campus carry Thursday. Their angst centered on UT-Austin, a university that pumped $540,000 into Big Higher Education’s pockets this year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The letter’s signatories asserted that legally concealed weapons were a hindrance to safety and “incompatible with their educational missions.” They wrote: “College campuses are marketplaces of ideas, and a rigorous academic exchange of ideas may be chilled by the presence of weapons. Students and faculty members will not be comfortable discussing controversial subjects if they think there might be a gun in the room.”
The authors slammed “so-called ‘campus carry’ legislation” as a deterrent to “those seeking to wreak violence.” They contended “Oregon is one state where ‘campus carry’ is legal, but that did not prevent the tragedy” referencing Umpqua Community College (UCC), the site of last month’s tragic shootings. However, UCC was a gun-free campus, Breitbart Texas’ Managing Director Brandon Darby reported. The campus had one guard per shift and each one was unarmed, according to Breitbart News.
The letter wanted Texas universities to embrace critical incident planning with advisory “faculty and staff” in place of Concealed Handgun License (CHL). “We further call on these institutions to rely on trained and equipped professional law-enforcement personnel to respond to emergency incidents,” it read. Breitbart News reported in the 12 years that campus carry has been Colorado law, the state has had no mass shootings.
The nameless, faceless lobbyists also quote UT system Chancellor Bill McRaven, a campus carry opponent who insisted that even legally concealed weapons by law-abiding individuals will “inhibit” free speech. He supposed: “If you’re in a heated debate with somebody in the middle of a classroom and you don’t know whether or not that individual is carrying, how does that inhibit the interaction between students and faculty?”
The interestingly timed group declaration comes days after anti-campus carry Austin group Gun Free UT retained the National Lawyers Guild as legal counsel to evaluate their options once UT-Austin President Greg Fenves issues his campus carry guidelines to the UT system in early 2016. The law requires designated gun-free zones. UT-Austin officials currently are determining those locations amid strong educator push-back.
“We are also consulting attorneys with the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus who have expertise in fighting back against campus carry in other jurisdictions,” Ellen Spiro, a professor in the Department of Radio, TV and Film and a Gun Free UT leader, told the Houston Chronicle earlier this week.
UT-Austin history professor Joan Neuberger organized Gun Free UT. She opposes all guns on campus. Last month, she threatened that if the university did not repeal the new concealed campus carry, Gun Free UT might sue “on the basis of its infringement of our rights.” Educrats like Neuberger want more funding to establish a campus research institute on the health impact of the presence of guns and violence, according to the Chronicle.
Neuberger and other UT-Austin professors staged a protest Tuesday over this issue. They claim 1,000 UT faculty now oppose guns “in our classrooms” and on Thursday, the small showing of UT-Austin #MillionStudentMarch protesters railed against campus CHL’s.
The law makes Texas the eighth state to enact some form of campus carry when it goes into effect at public universities by August 1, 2016. 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 will not be eligible.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.