The fight for gun rights on campus is one that “generally does not favor the Second Amendment,” Joseph Warta, regional director with the National Association for Gun Rights, acknowledges. But Texas’s “campus carry” law, which has survived both a lawsuit and an appeal by three college professors, shows that these laws can be effective in reducing gun violence, Warta argues in an op-ed for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.
“In the two years since the law took effect, Texas colleges have been free of mass gun violence, much like previous years,” he writes.
The law, which allows individuals with a concealed carry permit to carry firearms on public college campuses in Texas, was met with resistance when it was first enacted, as “professors statewide protested, and three UT-Austin professors brought a lawsuit against the state, claiming that it violated their academic freedom and increased the likelihood of violence.”
Warta calls this rhetoric “fear-mongering:”
In fighting against campus carry, the professors argued that students able to carry firearms into their classrooms made them fearful of discussing controversial topics. Tempers might flare, they said, and the situation could escalate into violence. They were especially incensed that the law did not let them individually ban firearms from class.
He points out that some schools have been supportive of the change and its effect on campus security:
Some Texas colleges have embraced the new law. At Texas Tech University in Lubbock, university leaders seem much less opposed to the law than the school’s faculty. In an interview with a local radio show, Texas Tech president Lawrence Schovanec didn’t seem to think much about the law: ‘I don’t mean to minimize the impact of [campus carry], but in a sense you would say it’s been a non-event…The implementation has been very, very smooth.’ The issue, Schovanec noted, is now rarely discussed.
Texas Tech’s police department came out in support of the law too, arguing that it has made the school safer. Texas Tech police department Lt. Amy Ivey opined: ‘I believe it makes the campus a safer place to live, learn and educate.’ The police believe that the law deters prospective shooters who are intimidated by the possibility of armed students or staff at the school.
But many schools have fallen somewhere in the middle, with administrators saying that the laws have had little to no impact on security:
At Texas A&M, Chris Meyer, the associate vice president for safety and security, said that campus carry has had “virtually no impact at all.”
At Sam Houston State University, Phillip Lyons, dean of the College of Criminal Justice, says that he “expected it to be largely uneventful, and those expectations have been pretty much borne out.”
At Tarleton State University, an assistant vice president for marketing and communications reported that “Other than the accidental discharge incident, campus carry was implemented at Tarleton very smoothly and without incident.” The accidental discharge incident refers to a concealed carry permit holder who accidentally fired his gun inside a dorm two months after the law went into effect. No one was hurt.
And at the University of North Texas, Erich Fritsch, chair of a campus carry task force and a criminal justice professor, noted that: “It’s not the CHL [concealed handgun license] people who are going to be an active shooter.”
This is because the law only applies to a narrow percentage of the student population, according to Warta. He explains that “openly carrying a firearm on campus remains illegal and gun owners must be at least 21 years old to obtain a permit to carry,” and that campus officials at UT-Austin estimate that “only 500 students who live on campus are over 21 and fewer than 1 percent of those students have concealed carry permits.”
Either way, Warta writes that the law has not put students at increased risk of gun violence, and that opponents to the law raised “a great uproar over a non-issue.”
“This time, emotional outbursts on campus could not dictate policy and the Texas legislature produced a model reform for other higher education systems,” he concludes.