Security, costs among main topics of campus carry forum
Members of the UH community brought up concerns about accessibility, security and costs regarding Senate Bill 11, the guns on campus law, at the Campus Carry Forum hosted by the University Tuesday.
The law gives public universities the privilege to regulate where concealed handguns may be prohibited, while not infringing upon an individual’s right to own and have a licensed concealed handgun.
The purpose of the forum, and following forums in 2016, is to allow the community to provide feedback on how to implement the law.
Here are six major concepts students, staff and faculty at the forum stressed their concerns about:
According to Associate Dean of Law Center and Chair of the Campus Carry Work Group Marcilynn Burke, the CCWG began soliciting feedback from the community last month through a brief survey and email to roughly 45,000 students, faculty and staff on campus. The group received “more than 2,500 responses to the survey and many emails.”
Attendees of the forum saw this as an inadequate representation of the student body’s opinion on how this law should be implemented on campus and gave ideas how to publicize their information further so that people will recognize that this is the time to speak up and be heard.
“The survey was not designed as a scientific survey,” Burke said. “It was designed to receive feedback with regard to implementation of the law. It’s pretty consistent in how other institutions across the state have used the survey process.”
Buildings Included and Excluded
Many of the crowd who went up and spoke to the panel agreed that classrooms, staff offices, faculty offices, the daycare and the Counseling and Psychological Services areas should not be places where students should have concealed handguns.
“I think the first thing we need to worry about is large traffic areas like the Student Center…this is a place where there are a mass number of students and those are the big casualties that you want to prevent,” communications undergraduate Joshua Drake said. “We need to consider keeping handguns out of classrooms…it’s hard to concentrate in a classroom when you do fear that someone may have a gun, there’s a lot of unstable people here.”
The possibility of gun-free dormitories created a clear divide among the crowd as some believed it’s an individual’s right to hold and store away their registered handgun, while others expressed concern for the safety of those who live in the dorms.
Many who attended the forum had issues with an idea to create a storage facility for holding weapons, despite supporters’ intent that such an area would provide a safe location for students to secure their weapons before going to class or other potentially gun-free zones.
Two issues from those against the idea of this storage: the possible financial costs in building a storage unit and maintaining it and student accessibility for long hours of the day.
Vice President and Legal Affairs General Counsel Dona Cornell stated if this type of equipment were made, it would not place a financial burden on students.
Two common themes among those against the bill were an investment in CAPS and training for faculty, staff and students on how to pick up on signs of a student becoming unstable and how to mediate a tense situation if a weapon is in sight.
In regard to training, several members of the audience agreed with the idea of having more faculty and staff training on how to de-escalate situations that may lead to violence. The panel seemed to agree with the idea.
“The policy is not where it stops,” Cornell said. “It definitely includes training of knowing how to recognize and respond to situations.”
Concealed Handgun License
Many faculty and staff members were concerned about how to approach students who visibly reveal handguns. The panel continuously reminded the audience that it is against the federal law to question a student if they have a concealed handgun license for their weapon.
“For faculty and students, you will never know who’s walking around you and has a gun and is a licensed carrier,” student veteran Sterling Dodd said. “There’s a million of us, there’s plenty.”
Police Chief Ceaser Moore, Jr., said that in the event that an officer might encounter a student in a potentially dangerous mental or physical state, the officer can go through a reporting process to get the license removed.
Burke said revisions to UH’s policies and decisions on how to implement S.B.11 on campus have a long way to go.
Any new rules must be established by Aug. 1, 2016. The process starts by presenting a draft of policies to President Khator and her cabinet in December for review. During the subsequent months, there will be an exchange of drafts and revisions to match her board’s and the community’s feedback.
In April, it will finalize into policy where the final copy will be submitted to the UH System Board of Regents and, if the policy is approved, it will become a part of the University of Houston Policy and Procedures.
More forums on the specifics of the draft will occur in the spring of 2016. Throughout this entire process, students, faculty and staff will be able to address their point in view regarding how this law should be implemented. This can be submitted to the CCSW directly through [email protected].