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Open Carry Legislation Open to Discussion

President to consider all sides before making decission

By Katarina Guzman
On October 22, 2015

An armed gunman shot and killed nine people and wounded nine others. Even more recently, shootings occurred at Texas Southern University in Houston and Northern Arizona University on Oct. 9, only a week after the Oregon shooting.

The nation is shocked to hear of more shootings on college campuses. In the wake of the tragedy in Oregon, students of UST received an email from Robert Ivany, the president of the school, concerning not only the shooting in Oregon but a state bill that will take effect at the beginning of Aug. 2016. Carry S.B. 11 was passed in the beginning of June. It will allow students faculty and staff to carry a licensed concealed handgun on college campuses in Texas.

Most students probably haven’t read the email. To summarize the email, UST has the ability to “opt-out” of the bill and create a gun-free zone(s) or not. This means that while potentially, concealed hand guns could be allowed on campus, they won't necessarily be allowed in Guinan or Young Hall or in any building, if decided. To clarify, only people over the age of 21 can obtain a permit and only permit holders will be able to carry a concealed handgun on campus.

But the question shouldn’t be if guns should be allowed on campus. The question should be, after all the tragedies of mass shootings every few months, why would UST allow guns on campus?

Photo credit Politico Magazine

UST isn’t the only university faced with this question. Private universities all across the state are holding town hall meetings on the subject to decide their course of action. As a private institution, UST can ban guns altogether, a choice that public institutions do not have. While the bill was still in Congress, student government presidents from thirteen schools including Rice, U of H, HCC, UTSA and UT Austin, wrote a letter to Gov. Greg Abbot, that was published in the Rice Thresher, asking him not to pass the bill or to, at the very least, give public institutions the same ‘opt-out’ choice that private institutions now have.

It seems like every few months the national news is reporting about some mass shooting that claims the lives of innocent people. Since the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012, a group called ‘Every Town for Gun Safety’ has been keeping track of school shootings. ‘Every Town’ reports 147 shootings on school campuses-not necessarily mass shootings since the 2012 tragedy. Of those 147 shootings, 84 were on college campuses. That is a lot of school shootings in three years. In fact, those 84 shootings at colleges and universities average at 28 shootings a year for three years.

In a lot of these conversations, people throw around the phrase,the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” For a moment, let’s say that UST allows guns on campus. This Oregon community college had a similar state laws like S.B. 11 allowing for concealed handguns. What about the "good guy with a gun"? Well, there may have been many good guys with guns there, but this tragedy still occurred.

An article by Mother Jones published in 2012 sometime after the tragedy at Sandy Hook, looked at 62 mass shootings from 1982 to 2012 and absolutely none of them were stopped by armed civilians. In fact I have yet to actually find an instance of an armed civilian stopping a would-be mass shooter.

This idea of a regular everyday hero that stops the bad guy makes for a great bedtime story but there is no evidence or precedent to even warrant telling the story in the first place. Simply put, arming everyone old enough to pull a trigger does not make a safer environment. Law enforcement officials are trained not only to handle firearms but to deescalate a situation without the use of deadly force and recognize the situations that lead to violence. Civilians are not trained, and having college students, faculty and staff armed isn’t a good choice.

This isn’t the movies. This isn’t a Rambo or some Terminator film. There isn’t a robot in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger that waits around the corner waiting to kill students to end the future human resistance. This is real life.

Honestly, it isn’t even the possibility of violence, however small a chance, that is concerning about this bill. The CDC estimates that in 2013 there were about 30,300 firearm related deaths, of those at least two thirds of all the deaths attributed to firearms were suicides. In such an emotionally charged and stressful atmosphere like college, having access to guns on campus doesn’t seem like that great of an idea, to put it lightly.

While the bill was still in the state level Congress, the Chancellor of the University of Texas system, former Navy S.E.A.L. and Admiral William McRaven wrote a letter to Abbot.

In his letter he state, “…the presence of concealed handguns on campus would contribute to a less-safe environment, not a safer one. Unease has been expressed by our mental health professionals that deal with the reality of the psychological pressures on our students of academic life, separation from family, and relationships – all of which contribute to the harsh reality that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. There is great concern that the presence of handguns, even if limited to licensed individuals age 21 or older, will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.”

I know someone somewhere will be tossing and turning in their sleep because they are having nightmares of a violation of the second amendment. This has nothing to do with second amendment rights and everything to do with the safety of the student body and its faculty and staff. Besides, even if the matter did have something to do with the right to bear arms, this is a university, not the local stop for the citizen’s militia. In other words, this is a place of learning, not the training center for unwilling tributes to the Capitol.

According to the annual security report of the campus, there were a grand total of seven on-campus crimes in 2014. This school is safe. Why would it be necessary to bring concealed handguns presumably to make an environment safer, when the environment is already as safe as it's going to get?

Studies are pointing towards a correlation between the amount of guns in a given area and the amount of gun related assaults and deaths.

This isn’t the time to prepare to meet your maker. It is the time as community to look at all the facts and studies and decide if we want to open this door. Because once it is open it will be next to impossible to close. We will have to live with whatever decision this community makes.

So go read that email, get in contact with the representatives and ask them questions about the bill. Read the studies. Go to the meetings that will be held this year on the subject and make your opinion heard. Go make a poster and post it on the SGA’s door. Make a short film about it. Do anything and do everything.

Just don’t stay silent.

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