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The Divide Over Texas’ New Campus Gun Law

Written by Meghan Bates
KTSW Guest Contributor

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law recently that expands the state’s open-carry law to university campuses. I decided to speak to undergraduate and graduate students at Texas State University, as well District 19 Texas State Representative James White, about their thoughts on the new law. Here’s what they had to say:

  1. Were there any factors you strongly feel opened doors for the law to be passed?

Shanna Schultz, Texas State University communication consultant: Open carry has been considered in the Texas Congress for several terms. This bill passed like many do – they gain a little bit of support each time they are presented to the floor.

James White, state representative: I think especially in the Republican Primary, there was a lot of interest with open carry—that made it easier to do. Since I was there in ‘11, that legislation has been filed.

  1. What is your response to the overall passage of the open-carry and the campus-carry bill?

JW: I am favorable to both. I authored legislation on open carry and co-authored on campus. Right now, you can go on a college campus with a concealed handgun. Knowing that you can just walk on one side, and not the other, it just didn’t make sense.

Dana Dinsmore, Doctoral Student: I have a concealed handgun license. I keep a gun in my car for protection, especially because I often visit friends out in the country where there is spotty cell reception. I think when many people hear campus carry they see hoards of freshman walking around with guns on their hips. That’s not the reality of it.

Matthew White, Senior Communication Major: I am very disappointed in the overall passage of both the open carry and campus carry laws. I grew up around guns my entire life, I even own several firearms, but I believe that there are places in society that guns are extremely detrimental.

Shanna Shultz, Lab Instructor: My philosophy is that displayed weapons are a threat symbol, despite the person’s best intention of personal protection. Particularly, this law introduces new ways to intimidate people without any ability to prove it. If I am teaching and a student disagrees with my lecture and shifts positions to where their holstered gun is more prominent, am I interpreting their actions as a potential threat or are they just shifting positions? The answer is irrelevant.Students near the LBJ Center. Photo by Nathalie Cohetero.

  1. Is there a major argument the opposition uses that seems like a fallacy to you?

Benjamin Clancy, Master’s student: Most troubling is the lack of research to ground any arguments that open carry or campus carry will decrease violence.

JW: Here are the numbers: We’re talking about 870,000 Texans— we’re not even talking about more than 5% for which open carry/campus carry applies. They have to go through a background check, national registry for mental illness, and the conviction rate for the general population is less than .3%. Only 3% of the 870,000 are 21 years and younger. Who says they will all be on campus with a gun at the same time? It is a defined population.

BC: Allowing campus-carry removes one of our best defenses against school shootings, being early response. Upon the passage of campus-carry, our first warning that a shooting might occur will be when shots are fired. This is to say nothing of the potential consequences that will arise from a given percentage of the student body feeling equipped and entitled to handle active shooter situations themselves, without any sort of training in how to do so.

  1. What questions do you have for those who have an opposing view, seeing the outcome?

SS: Why is your individual right to carry guns in the open more important than my individual right to feel free from intimidation?

JW: At what point do we understand that constitutional rights for every citizen that is law abiding?

  1. Are there any communities you feel that will be affected (positively or negatively) by the new law?
LBJ Statue. Photo by Nathalie Cohetero
Photo by Nathalie Cohetero.

JW: There were some concerns, and I share those concerns- for specific demographics that may be searched. We are hoping that police will adhere to the constitution- obeying the restrictions of the power of seizures without probable cause. When open-carry becomes a law, open-carry should not be the case for investigatory stop- unless for probable cause. I could see someone outside of a daycare being subjected to a search avoiding background checks. It’s really broad, but I could see where the officer would give benefit of the doubt, but an unlawfully investigatory stop is unconstitutional.

MW: I feel that minority groups, especially African-Americans, will be negatively impacted by the new gun laws. We saw similar situations unfold in the cases of Trayvon Martin and Walter Scott.

DD: I think the main community that is affected is gun carrying citizens. I think campus carry makes their lives easier.

BC: Open carry stems from culture of fear: a culture that values force over precaution. The ethos of open carry at base speaks to a cultural zeitgeist which holds that our neighbors cannot be trusted, the protections of our government cannot be trusted, and as such we must take our lives into our own hands.

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