Private universities in Texas are fighting to keep guns off campus

A new Texas law allows concealed guns in the classroom but many major institutions are determined to maintain their ban

 

More than 20 private universities in Texas are taking a stand against a new law that requires the state’s public universities to allow concealed weapons on campus.

Concealed guns were previously banned from both public and private universities in the state. The highly contested “campus carry” law, which goes into effect on 1 August this year, resulted in a compromise that allows public universities to designate specific areas as gun-free zones, and for private universities to opt out entirely. 

Republican Senator Brian Birdwell, the author of the law, said that private universities are “no different than Starbucks selling coffee” and so it is important for institutions to make their own gun decisions “in the marketplace of free enterprise”.

So far, no private university has opted to lift its gun ban, and major private universities including Texas Christian, Baylor and Southern Methodist have announced their intention to keep the bans in place. 

The law has also attracted criticism from many of the state's most prominent higher education administrators.

One seemingly unlikely and outspoken opponent is William McRaven, chancellor of the 15-campus public University of Texas system, and a former member of the Navy SEALS. He was commander of Special Operations forces that led the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

”I just don’t think bringing guns on campus is going to make us any safer. If you’ve ever been shot at, which I have, then you have an appreciation for what a gun can do,” Mr McRaven said during discussions of the law last June, according to the New York Times.

Similarly, University of Texas President Greg Fenves has made it clear that he is only reluctantly submitting to the new law. 

“Private universities have made a statement that handguns do not belong in campus buildings. I agree,” Mr Fenves told CBS News. “We don’t have a choice.”

Also at the University of Texas, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Weinberg has personally prohibited guns from his classroom, stating that he is unafraid to face a lawsuit.

But disagreement is far from unanimous. The law has been hailed as a major victory by gun rights advocates, who argue that it will allow students to protect themselves during shootings, such as the recent ones at Northern Arizona University and Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

Texas A&M University Chancellor John Sharp threw his support behind the bill, and has stated that he would be “surprised and frankly disappointed” if any of the presidents in his system disputed the recommendation.

Texas will join seven other states in allowing concealed weapons on campus, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

A total of 19 US states ban concealed weapons on campus entirely, while 23 others leave the decision to the individual colleges.

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