Students share thoughts over campus carry, constitutional carry
On Aug. 1, 2016, Texas Senate bill No. 11 went into effect, authorizing licensed holders to carry a concealed handgun at institutions of higher education.
This law, popularly known as “campus carry,” was passed during a legislative session in 2015 with another law that allows for the open carry of handguns.
In the upcoming legislative session, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland is hoping to pass House bill 375 that will allow lawful possession of a firearm in Texas without taxes, training requirements or licensing.
“Unlicensed open carry is another name for constitutional carry and has been in the works for some time. Campus carry was simply a preliminary entrée to it. This is well known,” said Alex Colvin, a history senior. “It is not, however, a law the majority of Americans want. It is what the National Rifle Association (NRA) wants in order to help gun sales and gun manufacturers; it has never been about what the Constitution says about the right to carry.”
Students discuss campus carry
Campus carry went into effect last semester, without notice from some students. Education freshman Alexander Iglesias said that his first semester at UH passed without any worries about campus carry and that it isn’t something he usually thinks about.
“It doesn’t even really cross my mind that people on campus might be carrying a gun until I see a sign somewhere that prohibits them,” Iglesias said. “There are already so many things I have to worry about as a college student, and getting possibly shot at school shouldn’t be one of them. I think that guns have no place on a college campus.”
Colvin believes that Iglesias’s concerns are shared by many students on campus, leading him to petition Senate Bill 11 and create a closed Facebook group called “Gun Free UH.”
Another group on campus, known as Students For Campus Carry at UH, advocates for concealed campus carry. They said they have no opinion on constitutional carry.
Physics freshman Reed Masek is apathetic toward campus carry and thinks that if people wish to carry a concealed handgun on campus, they have every right to do so.
“If the law says that they can, then they can,” Masek said. “People will bring guns whether they’re allowed to or not, and if some people think that carrying a gun with them on campus will make them feel safer, then why stop them?”
Students voice concern over ‘constitutional carry’
Statistics collected by Students for Concealed Carry found that college-aged Texas License to Carry (LTC) holders had their licenses revoked at a much lower rate than other age group.
However, individuals between 18 and 20 can obtain a license only if they are a veteran of the U.S. armed forces. The median age at UH is currently 22 years old, meaning that a good portion of the student body can legally obtain an LTC.
Although Masek is fine with campus carry, he is strongly against constitutional carry.
“There are rules and regulations for a reason, getting a gun shouldn’t be an easy process because having a gun is such a huge responsibility,” Masek said. “That’s almost as bad as saying that we shouldn’t require people to have licenses to drive a car, it makes no sense. If this bill is passed and then campus carry is changed and allows people to carry concealed handguns without a license, I don’t know if I’ll feel safe on campus anymore.”
The proposal has many critics, including Ed Scruggs, the vice chair of the Board for Texas Gun Sense. According to an article, Scruggs believes that the bill would repeal needed requirements — continuing down a path that allowed for campus carry.
“Basically, it just trashes every gun regulation in the state. It trashes every safety regulation in the state,” Scruggs said. “There would really be no reason to have a licensing or permitting system at all.”
Scruggs said that Strickland is a proponent of what he calls the “guns everywhere” philosophy, which is the belief that anyone should be able to carry anywhere and that doing so makes the world a safer place.
Iglesias strongly disagrees with this statement.
“All we are doing with that mentality is breeding more fear and creating an environment of unease,” Iglesias said. “I believe that one of the reasons open carry isn’t allowed on campus is because that just generates this public fear. I don’t think that any public place should allow that type of fear to exist.”
In a three-part piece Colvin wrote for Gun Free UH, he said that the campus carry laws were manufactured by the NRA as the “Campus Personal Protection Act” some years ago and adopted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and they have been pushed by lawmakers in statehouses ever since.
“These laws are not an example of the people petitioning their elected representatives for laws they want; they are an example of corporate interests and their foot soldiers in the statehouses imposing their will on the electorate, against the public,” Colvin said.