Survivors decry campus gun legislation

William James Gerlich

Two survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting want Texas lawmakers to vote against bills that would allow students to carry concealed handguns on campus, they said at a press conference Thursday.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, filed a bill that could allow licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns on college campuses. Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, filed a similar bill in the House.

The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence hosted the event at the Capitol on Thursday morning to persuade lawmakers not to vote for the bill. John Woods, a graduate representative in UT Student Government and the president of Students for Gun Free Schools, and Colin Goddard, the Brady Campaign’s assistant director of federal legislation, reflected on their experiences at Virginia Tech.

When English senior Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people on campus before Cho died by suicide, he shot Goddard four times. Goddard survived by lying still while the gunman continued to fire rounds of bullets around the room. Woods was not directly injured from the attacks, but his girlfriend was shot and killed.

Wentworth said in a statement that the Virginia Tech shooting is one reason he believes campus carry is essential.
“I want to put an element of doubt in a potential shooter’s mind,” he said. “And, if some deranged person does open fire in a Texas college classroom or dormitory, I want to give faculty, staff and students the ability to defend themselves.”

Gov. Rick Perry endorsed Wentworth’s bill. Although SG’s official stance is against concealed carry, some UT students support the legislation. Individuals older than 21 who get a concealed handgun license by having a clean mental health bill and completing a training program can carry a gun almost anywhere, including on the public streets that surround campuses.

“School campuses are not sanctuaries from crime,” said Jeff Shi, president of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. “Allowing campus carry will give students and faculty the same means of protection they are afforded virtually anywhere else.”

Woods said allowing students to have guns on campus puts everyone on campus at risk. Because many campus shooters are suicidal, the threat of death at the hands of a concealed handgun licensee would not deter them, he said.

“We need to focus on the real underlying issue causing gun violence, such as mental health resources and things of that nature,” said SG President Scott Parks, who also spoke at the press conference.

President William Powers Jr. has also firmly denounced concealed carry on campuses.

“There need to be many other steps before we consider this legislation,” Goddard said. “Options, such as providing locks on the inside of doors to protect classrooms, is a good step toward making campuses a safer place for everyone.”