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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Campus

Campus carry explained: what you need to know


Guns are here.

Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 11 into law in May 2015 after promising to sign any campus carry legislation that crossed his desk. S.B.11 goes into effect Monday, and anyone with a license to carry a handgun may bring it — concealed — to any 4-year public college campus in Texas.

Junior colleges have exactly one more year to nail down their own campus policies before all public universities in Texas will implement campus carry. Many private schools chose to opt out except for Amberton University in Garland.

This is a guide to explain students’ rights and rules in this new age of guns on campus.

Exclusion Zones

One of the provisions of S.B. 11 allows presidents of higher education institutions to establish restrictions and regulations about where students, faculty, staff and visitors can carry handguns. However, the bill stated that these restrictions cannot “have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying concealed handguns.”

In line with the bill’s requirements, University of Houston President and Chancellor Renu Khator developed a Campus Carry Work Group to craft those regulations and determine which parts of campus would be gun-free. The group also determined standards for on-campus gun storage and procedures for those who choose to carry.

After the group wrote a draft, the University held several town hall meetings to gather comments and concerns before presenting the document to the Board of Regents for final approval.

A combination of other state laws governing where guns aren’t allowed and opinions from students plus faculty on where guns are appropriate in a college setting led to a set of guidelines. Any University building which met the guidelines could apply for official designation as an “exclusion zone” where no person could carry.

Most buildings that achieved that status said their building was “frequently used by minor children” or “school groups.” Vice President of Administration and Finance Jim McShan had ultimate authority over which areas on campus could be exclusion zones.

UH won’t allow guns in any residence halls except Calhoun Lofts (with some exceptions in Cougar Village I and II). This is different in comparison to other universities: Texas A&M University plans to allow concealed handguns in all residence halls, University of Texas at Austin will only allow concealed carry in what’s typically called “married student housing” and Rice University chose to remain gun-free.

Leah Nash/ The Cougar

Bringing Your Gun to Campus

UH Police Department estimates that 1,401 students, faculty and staff will have a License to Carry that allows them a concealed gun on campus. Residents who don’t live in Calhoun Lofts and commuters will need to find a location to store their handgun while not in class.

License to Carry holders have three options: store the gun in a locked compartment in a locked car, drop off the gun at a secure storage area or place the gun in a gun safe or other locked box that meets the University’s gun safety guidelines.

The only available secure storage area on campus is at UHPD, but they said other locations may be established. 

UHPD suggests entering through the south entrance of the building and notifying an officer that you need assistance via a lobby phone. An officer will then verify your LTC and bring you to a bulletproof “securing” room to put your handgun into a safe with a fingerprint locking mechanism. Be sure to keep the card the officer gives you to pick up the gun later.

UHPD said they expect the drop off and pick up procedures to take 5 minutes each time. LTC holders can drop off or pick up their handgun any time or any day, as per state law. This means students, faculty and staff can store handguns overnight.

Calhoun Lofts LTC holders and faculty who wish to store guns in their offices must follow University gun safe guidelines. The chosen safe must meet Underwriters Laboratories Residential Security Container rating standards or feature a secure non-key locking mechanism and exterior walls made of 16-gauge steel.

Handguns are allowed in any classroom that’s not part of a broader exclusion zone. Only UH Department of Public Safety staff and other UHPD officers are permitted to ask students if they are carrying a concealed handgun or if they have an LTC.

Open Carry

Concealed carry of firearms, when done correctly, looks the same way it sounds. UHPD said a properly stored concealed weapon shouldn’t be visible in any way. Concealed handguns are permitted in classrooms of buildings that aren’t otherwise exclusion zones.

Open carry of firearms, however, will remain illegal on any public university campus in Texas. If someone is openly carrying a firearm, meaning that you can see the gun, they may or may not be in the wrong. Only intentionally revealed handguns are “grounds for disciplinary actions,” according to UHPD.

Students should report any concealed carry policy violations, ranging from open carry to improper gun storage, to the UHDPS.

Click the map below to see where concealed carry is allowed, where there are exclusion zones and which buildings have partial exclusion. Click the building to see which rooms are exclusion zones. 

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