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"Campus Carry" Discussion Opened to UST Students

The decision to opt in or out of "campus carry" legislation to be announced this month

By Hannah Vergult
On December 4, 2015

Photo Courtesy / SGA

The decision for the university to opt in or out of the recently passed Texas “campus carry” law will be announced by UST President Robert Ivany by the end of December.

The “campus carry” law allows anyone with a concealed handgun license to bring their concealed weapons on university and college campuses. Private universities in Texas have the option to opt out of the bill.

To facilitate discussion and answer questions about the bill, the director of Residence Life invited Guinan and Young residents to a “campus carry” discussion in the Guinan lobby on Dec. 2.

Commuters, who constitute the majority of the campus population, were not invited to the event but were encouraged to contact their student government representatives in another email Ivany sent to the student body in early October.

Photo Courtesy / SGA

The discussion featured a three-person panel with UST Police Chief James Tate; Assistant Vice President of Campus Life Matt Prasifka; and concealed handgun license owner and student Matthew Lance.

At the beginning of the discussion, Lance provided attendees with a two-page document outlining his vehement resistance to opting out of the “campus carry” law.

“Gun free zones provide easy targets for mass shooters,” Lance said. “[The Texas legislature] rightly understands allowing CHL holders to exercise their right to carry is a deterrent to crime and increases public safety. The bad guys are going to think twice before coming onto campus knowing that there are CHL holders there.”

While gun-related conviction rates of CHL holders are statistically lower than those without licenses, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported in 2013 that 1.8 percent of deadly conduct convictions were committed by CHL holders.

Tate said the police force would adapt to Ivany’s ultimate decision on opting in or out the “campus carry” law. Tate also said the recent mass shootings and controversy surrounding gun violence in the U.S. has no impact on any concerns he has about the possible implementation of the bill on campus.

“Most CHL holders are good folk and they’re not out there to do anybody harm,” Tate said. “They want to simply defend themselves. What I get concerned about is the CHL holder who gets up every morning and cannot wait to put their weapon on their hip and they, in their mind, are thinking ‘I’m going to go out and I’m going to save the day. I’m going to be a hero.’ It’s a small number, but they’re out there.”

While there are some instances where CHL holders have accidentally shot innocent bystanders during shootings, there are also stories of CHL holders protecting civilians from possible harm.

Several students at the “campus carry” discussion voiced adoption of the bill would make them feel less safe on campus.

“I am for opting out of this bill because I believe that we already have a police department that can take care of the security on campus,” junior Adrian Rodriguez said. “I wouldn’t trust a random 21-year-old with eight hours of experience to protect me with a gun.”

Rodriguez is referring to some of the CHL holder rules, which require those wishing to obtain a license to be 21 years of age, and complete eight hours of training.

Sophomore Ileana Reyes also said she would feel less safe if the school were to opt in because she does not like the idea of students carrying concealed weapons on campus. She was also concerned that in the event of a school shooting, police might not know who the “bad guy” is if a CHL holder tries to become involved in taking down the shooter.

“We’re not soldiers,” Reyes said.

Another student who attended the “campus carry” discussion, sophomore SGA senator Greg Pirolli said he would feel safer opting in.

“I think that CHL holders are good people and they go through the process they need to go through in order to get a CHL license and I think that to opt in to the law would help us more than hurt us,” Pirolli said.

To gather information on student opinion for “campus carry,” the Student Government Association is encouraging students to take a brief online survey. The survey results will be presented to Ivany to aid his decision on the law.

Ivany had hosted meetings with the four main constituencies on campus (Faculty Senate, Staff Council, Student Government Association and Graduate Student Association) to answer questions about the bill and settle on an agreement in favor of the majority opinion.

Every constituency, besides SGA, has submitted their majority opinions to Ivany.

“I know we have the option, so I will listen to what the various constituents say before making any pronouncement,” Ivany said in a Nov. 30 meeting with the SGA. “If we all decide no, there will have to be a process to add signs to the entrances on campus informing people they cannot bring concealed weapons on campus.”

In the event that the university opts in, the law would go into effect Aug. 1, 2016 and Ivany would hold another round of meetings with the various campus constituencies to determine new procedures and logistics. For example, the law allows schools to place “safe zones” where concealed weapons would not be permitted by CHL holders.  Under present law, CHL holders are allowed to stow concealed weapons in their vehicles even if they are parked on campus.

The “campus carry” decision comes at a time surrounding much controversy concerning mass shootings. The most recent U.S. mass shooting, where at least 14 died in San Bernardino, California, occurred the same day of the Dec. 2 meeting on campus.

A link is available here to access further information about the “campus carry” law.

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