Thursday, March 5, 2009
Bills filed in Texas Senate would allow concealed handguns on college campuses
Rep. Joe Driver considers the legislation a self-defense bill, and thinks all Texans have the right to protect themselves.
College campuses in Texas are currently gun-free zones, but that could change soon.
Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, and Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, filed identical bills Feb. 26 that would allow licensed individuals to carry concealed firearms on campuses.
"The police, just like in the real world, can't be everywhere," Driver said.
Driver considers the legislation a self-defense bill, and thinks all Texans have the right to protect themselves, he said. The state permits licensed concealed carry already, and this bill would lift the ban on college campuses, he said, permitting those with a license to carry on campus.
To obtain a license an individual must be at least 21 years old, take a course and have passed an extensive background check among other requirements, Driver said.
"There's hundreds of thousands of people that have licenses, and not everyone carries," he said. The legislation would be in place to give "people the option," Driver said.
Maureen McGuinness, assistant vice president for student development, said she thinks allowing guns on campus would make NT less safe and make her job of overseeing the Center for Student Rights and Responsibilities more difficult.
McGuinness and other judicial officers for the center have to make tough decisions that affect the livelihoods of students including the ability to attend classes or live in the dorms, and not everyone is happy when they leave the center's office, she said.
"This isn't the OK Corral," she said. "The days of Tombstone are over."
The center already has cases dealing with licensed students misusing firearms, she said.
"I think people have the right to defend themselves, especially women," said Francie Wilson, an education senior.
Wilson said she doesn't have a problem with the legislation, and thinks concealed carry on campus could stop or deter an assailant until police arrived if a mass shooting, such as the one at Virginia Tech in 2007, were to occur.
Wilson doesn't have her license because she can't afford it, but is planning on obtaining one as a graduation present, she said. Wilson's brothers have licenses to carry a gun, and people who have guns carry for protection, not to hurt someone else, she said.
"Society as a whole is becoming more and more degenerate," she said.
The ability to carry concealed guns on campus wouldn't make Andrew Jordan Miller, a music composition junior, feel any safer on campus than he already is, he said. Miller doesn't see any immediate or long-term benefits of allowing guns on campus, and even though carriers would be licensed, he doesn't trust those people to carry or fire a gun responsibly.
The concept of the legislation makes sense at a certain level, but is a bad idea, said Steven Forde of the political science department. Having six or more armed students in a classroom to deter a mass shooting, if it were to occur, would do more harm than good, Forde said.
"The cure could be worse than the disease," Forde said.
If the legislation passes, the university would have to develop a program to educate staff, faculty and students on policy and procedures, McGuinness said. There would also be a different level of risk when stepping on to campus, she said.
"It's on our radar," she said. "I think we're all holding our breath and hoping it doesn't pass."
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