Working group begins to evaluate, prepare for campus carry

Matthew Adams

Just after the Jefferson Davis statue controversy came to an end, members of UT have begun working to submit a recommendation to University President Gregory Fenves regarding campus carry.

On May 30, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 11 to allow licensed permit holders to carry concealed handguns on public university grounds starting Aug. 1, 2016. In an email on Aug. 20, Fenves said the law gives campuses certain discretion for establishing campus carry regulations and hopes to make the campus as safe as possible.

“The safety of our community is of the utmost importance,” Fenves said in the email. “I want to make clear my goal is to promote safety and security for all members of the campus and in a way that is fully compliant with the law.”

Fenves said in the email that the working group will submit options to him by the end of November.

Steven Goode, UT law professor and chair of the working group, said the committee met Monday for the first time and heard from Fenves what he expects from the working group. Goode said the meeting was productive and ensured that members are up to speed on the law.

“We reviewed the law and made clear that we’re only talking about a law that addresses concealed handguns being carried by licensed holders,” Goode said. “We are talking about a law that requires licensed holders to be 21 years of age.”

Besides the age restriction, Goode said the law does not address concealed carry off campus. Goode said the group is working to schedule dates for two public forums.

Robert Guerra, communications director for College Republicans, said the group is confident the University will enact policies that are both consistent with the bill and allow for appropriate campus carry  locations on campus.

“Additionally, the presence of concealed carry license holders on campus only serves to make the campus safer and provides these individuals with the means to protect themselves and others from those who might wish to do members of the UT community harm,” Guerra said.

A protest occurred Aug. 27 on the West Mall, where faculty members and students called for a “gun-free UT.”

History professor Joan Neuberger said after the legislation passed, faculty and staff decided to hold a demonstration against the legislation.

“We hope the working group interprets the new law as restrictively as possible,” Neuberger said. “I do not believe that we will be safer with more guns around.”

Radio-television-film professor Ellen Spiro, who participated in the protest and is working to raise awareness, said the organization Gun-Free UT would work to make sure people are educated on the subject.

“Gun-Free UT is about opening up the discourse and dialogue around gun violence,” Spiro said. “Even if we cannot change this law imminently, we can arm ourselves and each other with logic, wisdom and empathy to counter the insanity ofcampus carry.”