The Texas A&M University System unveiled its proposed “campus carry” recommendations for implementation on Wed., Apr. 13. State law requires public universities have new rules in place to comply with the law passed as Senate Bill 11 (S.B. 11) during the Texas 84th Legislature in 2015. S.B. 11 goes into effect on August 1 for all state institutions of higher learning, except at community colleges where this change occurs on August 1, 2017.
The flagship College Station campus of Texas A&M will allow licensed individuals to carry a concealed handgun “in classrooms or residential facilities that are owned and operated, or leased and operated by the university,” according to a university press release.
Texas A&M University System President Michael Young issued an open letter stating he was “pleased to fully endorse” the 14 recommendations. “As President of Texas A&M, I am deeply committed to creating the optimal environment for learning, discovery and work. At the same time, as a state institution, we are subject to the demands of the law and will necessarily comply,” wrote Young.
A 22-member task force, comprised of university faculty, staff, students, and local law enforcement, conducted a campus-wide survey, reviewed the new law, and sought input from other public universities, according to Young’s letter. The task force penned the Campus Carry Policy Task Force Final Report, which prohibits campus carry in high hazard laboratories where “the presence of strong magnets requires the prohibition metallic objects, including firearms…” or where “the negligent discharge of a firearm will create the risk of serious physical injury or illness because of the nature of materials present…” such as pathogenic materials and high pressure, cryogenic, flammable gases.
Other areas to nix campus carry include “specific premises where formal student, faculty or staff disciplinary hearings are being conducted,” campus healthcare and psychological counseling facilities, collegiate/interscholastic sporting event venues, campus recreation and fitness centers, and where camps or programs for minors take place on the campus. The campus preschool, elementary and secondary schools are gun-free zones by state law.
The university system’s summary of proposed A&M member campus carry rules lists Prairie View A&M University, Texas A&M International University and Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi as the three campuses with dormitories leased and operated by third-party management companies. Their rules require that these companies decide whether they want to permit campus carry in residential facilities.
Young also modified a rule about campus carry in private offices. An employee, with the president’s approval, may ban the concealed carry of a firearm in cases when an “employee has demonstrated that the carrying of a concealed handgun by a license holder in the office presents a significant risk of substantial harm due to a negligent discharge of the handgun.”
The task force report excluded its overseas branch campus at Qatar in its review “as the laws of the State of Qatar govern possession of weapons.”
In Texas, individuals must be over 21-years-0ld to apply for a concealed handgun license (CHL) which means most undergraduate students are ineligible. The campus carry law is based on Texas’ existing laws for CHL holders, requiring a criminal background check, payment of an application fee, and completion of a safety course plus a proficiency test. This law is not the same as open carry, which is prohibited on the state’s public university campuses.
The Texas A&M System Office of General Counsel reviewed the proposal. Each university in the system and agency CEO approved these proposed campus carry rules after consulting with its students, staff, and faculty taking into account “specific safety considerations” and the “uniqueness” of the respective campus environments, said the press release.
Last year, Chancellor John Sharp wrote in support of campus carry in a letter to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick: “I have complete trust and faith in our students.”
The system’s Board of Regents will review it later this month for final approval.
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