By Anjulie Van Sickle
In Texas, the issue of campus carry has been a decade-long fight. Now, in the wake of recent incidents of school violence, legislators may finally vote to allow concealed handgun license holders to carry guns on the state’s college campuses.
The House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Service approved a campus carry bill on April 11 by a 7-1 vote, sending it to the full house. That bill, authored by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cypress, includes a local control option, which lets local school boards opt out of the legislation. A second bill that is being considered by the Senate would not allow institutions to opt out.
If the House bill passes during this legislative session, there is a possibility that anyone with a concealed handgun license would be allowed to carry weapons onto public college campuses as soon as the fall semester.
Support for the bill has gained momentum due to the recent attacks at Lone Star College, near Houston, where one student violently stabbed 14 people on April 9 and another wounded three people during a shooting on the campus in January.
Dallas County Community College District Vice Chancellor Justin Lonon has lobbied against the legislation in Austin, but he believes it has a good chance of passing this session.
“Although I was wrong about it passing last legislative session, I do believe it will this session because of the amount of passion on both sides of the issue,” Lonon said.
At Eastfield, like most college campuses, opinions of students, staff and faculty vary.
“I would feel a lot better if I were able to defend myself,” science major Katie Rayshell said. “The people committing the crimes don’t care if it’s against the law to bring guns or knives. If other people are able to bring [weapons] for defense, you’re a lot less likely to attack someone who you think might have a gun with them.”
Government professor Dr. Cindy Castaneda said the popularity of guns in Texas lends itself to more support for the campus carry legislation. However, she said there are other factors to consider.
“I am not individually supportive of that kind of legislation, because of personal safety issues,” Castaneda said. “There are students who get upset, and I’m not sure I would trust everyone’s decision. I would feel more comfortable as a faculty member knowing that the people who are carrying weapons [on campus] are the police.”
President Jean Conway said she opposes allowing guns on campus because she does not believe it would be safe for those involved in a dangerous situation.
“You think if you are a single person in a room and someone walks in and has a gun, you could shoot this person,” Conway said. “That may not be the situation at all.”
Conway said that in a dangerous, chaotic situation where a shooter is involved and a lockdown occurs, people are running to find a place to hide, and the police are trying to locate the shooter. If more than one person has a gun, the police will not know whom to shoot, Conway explained. This scenario could lead to innocent people getting hurt.
“We ultimately could cause more damage by having people on campus with guns,” Conway said.
Training is also an issue. In order to obtain a concealed handgun license, a person must go through 10 hours of training. However, another bill on the Senate floor would reduce that requirement to four hours.
“I’m not necessarily for students being able to carry guns because a lot of people I know who could get the training are very immature,” science major Elisabeth Hunneycutt said. “I don’t think it would be good for a bunch of 20-year-olds to be running around campus with guns.”
Both bills would grant those wanting to protect themselves the ability to carry firearms legally. However, opponents worry that they legislation could lead to more violent incidents on college campuses.
“I don’t have a problem with people being able to carry concealed weapons,” English professor Larissa Pierce said. “I’m just concerned about the students who react on emotion and decide to use a weapon in a threatening way because they are upset about something that their professors, or the administration, has done and take it out on everybody.”