Majority of speakers at first public forum voice anti-campus carry opinions

Matthew Adams

A majority of people attending the first public forum on campus carry spoke against policy that will go into effect on Aug. 1, 2016.

In June 2015, the Texas Legislation passed Senate Bill 11, which allows students and others with a concealed handgun licence to carry a concealed gun on campus. Under this law, public universities have the ability to designate certain gun-free zones, but the entire campus cannot be gun-free.

Andrew Jackson, a business junior, said he supports the bill and wishes the university will have the least amount of restrictions possible.

“If you implement very strict laws that ban guns in buildings such as the Union, the PCL, you are essentially banning campus carry in general,” Jackson said. “If you ban guns in the PCL or the McCombs School of Business where I’m a student at, you effectively ban me from exercising my rights.”

In August, UT President Gregory Fenves announced a 19-member working group to provide parameters and options for the University on how to implement campus carry. Fenves’ initiative seeks to ensure safety for the students, staff and faculty, while ensuring the University abides by the law.

Ellen Spiro, radio-television-film professor and member of anti-campus carry group Gun-Free UT, said she is surprised by the lack of participation from gun supporters.

“I have been surprised,” Spiro said. “Even gun owners — I still have not met one who supports having guns on campus. At this point we are not arguing something controversial anymore.”

C.J. Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas, said the group did not have much of a turn out for this first meeting. Grisham said there is not much to discuss except to wait for the implementation period to begin Aug. 1, 2016.

“I want to make sure all sides are being heard in this debate,” Grisham said. “This topic is not much of a debate because the law already passed. This should be nothing more than an education effort for people.”

Bryan Jones, a government professor and member of Gun-Free UT, said despite the growing support against this decision, he is ashamed people did not protest the legislation sooner.

Jones said he remembers when a student brought a gun to class and said he does not want concealed handguns in the classroom for safety and freedom of speech concerns.

“I was writing on the blackboard and something fell on the floor,” Jones said. “I turned around and watched a student pick a gun off the floor. At that point the class discussion was over.”

The student was an off-duty officer in class who was required to wear his gun, Jones said, but he said he does not want to see this kind of incident happen at UT.

Justin Stone, a UT law student, said he supports the bill because he has been a concealed handgun license holder for several years and said that those carrying a licensed weapon are not a threat to anyone at the University.

“I do not want to have to use my firearm, but I am not afraid to do so,” Stone said. “That being said, we are not vigilantes. We are not a danger to this campus. We are not the bad guys you read about in the news.”

The second public forum will be held at 3–5 p.m. Oct. 5 in the Texas Union Ballroom.