Pro-gun advocates worked throughout the 84th Texas Legislative Session to pass campus and open carry bills. The campus carry law went into effect on August 1, the anniversary of the first mass-shooting in the nation.
Both Abbott and Patrick stated their support for campus carry, and SB 11, and two open carry bills, were among the first that Patrick sent to committee in the session, as Breitbart Texas reported. Governor Abbott said “he would sign any bill that expands gun rights on campus, whether university administrators can opt out or not.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on June 13, 2015.
Senate Bill 11 allows licensed to carry holders to have their concealed weapons in their dorms, public buildings and classrooms of public, private, or an independent institution of higher education in Texas. However, a private or independent institution may prohibit license holders from carrying on campus, or on any grounds or buildings on which a university-sponsored activity is being conducted, or in certain university-owned vehicles. Public, private, or independent institutions of higher education may establish regulatory provisions concerning the storage of handguns in dormitories or other residential facilities. Junior and community colleges have one more year to determine their gun rules.
The president or other chief executive officer of a public institution of higher education, after appropriate consultation, is required to establish reasonable regulatory provisions. A license holder may not generally be banned from carrying a concealed handgun on the campus of a public institution of higher education or have that same effect.
The bill sets out provisions relating to limitation of liability for applicable institutions of higher education and an institution’s officers and employees under statutory provisions governing concealed handgun licenses.
A student who is 21-years-old or in the military may apply for a concealed handgun license but they must pass both a gun range and classroom course. Students may not open carry on public universities:
“A concealed handgun license holder commits a Class A misdemeanor offense if the license holder carries a partially or wholly visible handgun, regardless of whether the handgun is holstered, on or about the actor’s body and intentionally or knowingly displays the handgun in plain view of another person on the premises of or on certain streets, walkways, driveways, or parking areas of a public, private, or independent institution of higher education; carries a handgun on the campus of a private or independent institution of higher education that has banned the carrying of handguns, regardless of whether the handgun is concealed, provided effective notice is given; or intentionally carries a concealed handgun on a portion of the campus of a public institution of higher education that has adopted rules prohibiting such carrying, provided effective notice is given.”
The bills were the source of much discussion during the legislative session. The final version of the bill was considered watered-down by many, as reported by Breitbart Texas. Public universities were given more authority about where and how concealed handguns are permitted on campus. Private universities are allowed to opt out of campus carry. Amendments allowing public universities to enforce “gun-free zones” and exempting health facilities on campus were also added.
The campus carry bill met with both opposition and support from the two largest university systems in the Lone Star State, the University of Texas and Texas A&M.
As reported by Breitbart Texas’ Bob Price, Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp said he had no objection to the campus carry bill. In a letter to the Lt. Governor, Sharp wrote, “I have complete trust and faith in our students … Having licensed gun owners in possession of legal weapons on our campuses does not raise safety concerns for me personally … The real question is this: ‘Do I trust my students, faculty and staff to work and live responsibly under the same laws at the university as they do at home?’ Of course I do!” Sharp said the Texas A&M University System would not take a position on the issue and “will not oppose campus carry.”
The University of Texas (UT) in Austin took the converse position. In fact, as reported by Breitbart Texas, a UT faculty organization sent out an email to all university faculty asking them to attend the hearing on campus carry and testify. The email was distributed on the official taxpayer funded university email system by mathematics professor and UT Faculty Council Chairman Bill Beckner. “As I expect that you are aware,” writes Beckner, “both President Powers and Chancellor McRaven have expressed their opinion that this measure will not enhance safety for students, faculty and staff on our campus.”
A copy of the email, sent by Bill Beckner was provided to Breitbart Texas from a current UT professor who wished to remain anonymous. “When you read it, the whole thing is offensive and disturbing for several reasons,” said the professor, who described himself as a conservative and a supporter of gun rights. The professor said that publicly supporting campus carry would be detrimental professionally, especially for promotions, tenure and grants. “When you’re considering who you’re going to make a permanent part of the faculty, you take that kind of thing into consideration,” said the professor, calling it “human nature” to have a negative view of someone who was “not going to toe the party line.” The Faculty Council’s official website, a subpage on UT’s website, promoted a similar anti-campus carry position.
UT President Bill Powers and Chancellor William McRaven, and former Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, “publicly stated their opposition” to campus carry. McRaven sent a letter to Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker of the House Joe Straus stating his opposition to allowing concealed carry of handguns on campus.
Each public university is required to submit a biennial report to the legislature and each appropriate standing committee that describes its regulatory provisions regarding carrying concealed handguns on campus. It must also explain the reason for adopting those provisions.
C.J. Grisham of Open Carry Texas, told Breitbart Texas, “No one should ever be disarmed for crossing over an imaginary line. Campus carry is about self defense and, like open carry, will be a non-event here in Texas. As a student about to finish up my degree, I’m encouraged knowing I no longer need to leave my handgun in my car to attend classes. College just got a lot safer and OCT will continue fighting to expand gun rights in Texas.”
Terry Holcomb, Sr., Executive Director of Texas Carry told Breitbart Texas, “As another historical day unfolds here in Texas, we at Texas Carry are very pleased that college students, especially women, will no longer have to be helpless victims.”
On August 1, 1966, a Marine who had been trained as a sniper, killed and wounded approximately 45 people on the University of Texas (UT) campus before he was gunned down by authorities. Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the 27-story clock tower in the middle of the university armed with a shotgun, rifles, and pistols. He engaged in what is considered the first mass shooting assault on civilians, as reported by the AP. He had already killed his wife and his mother before he climbed those stairs.