Although campus carry has taken center stage in the University’s discussion of gun legislation, open carry will affect students living off campus much sooner.
Starting Jan. 1, it will be legal for Texans to openly carry handguns if they have a license. This means, unless a privately owned business or property displays signage saying otherwise, those living off campus may begin to see students displaying their firearms.
Throughout the semester, many people have participated in protests, forums and rallies in opposition to campus carry, which would allow students, faculty and staff to carry concealed handguns on campus. Although open carry implementation is around the corner, campus carry has taken center stage and for good reason, according to Steven Goode, law professor and chair of the campus carry working group.
“I think campus carry has gotten a lot more attention because the president of the University is authorized to make rules and regulations concerning campus carry, so it’s an issue that is a live one on this campus in terms of the types of rules and regulations he is going to recommend,” Goode said. “On the other hand, there is nothing the University can do about open carry off campus.”
Madison Yandell, president of College Republicans and government junior, said the reason why there has been more debate and emphasis on campus carry is because of the direct effect the law has to the UT campus.
“People are used to guns outside of campus and know there are armed citizens around them, whereas they feel campus carry will disturb their ‘safe space,’ known as classrooms and other campus buildings,” Yandell said. “Open carry is a visible symbol of law-abiding citizens exercising their rights.”
Ashley Alcantara, communications director for University Democrats and international and global studies senior, said the group will be lobby against both open and campus carry during the 2017 Legislative session, in an effort to ban both. Alcantara said she believes open carry could make places where students live off campus, like West Campus, less safe.
“We’ll have to wait and see if it creates a substantial problem,” Alcantara said. “Hopefully there are very few instances of people who choose to open carry, in which case it might not even come up in student residential areas. But if it does come up, it creates a higher risk of violence and could definitely make students feel unsafe.”
Yandell said she believes many college-age people are unlikely to have licenses to carry, which is why she does not foresee a big problem when the law is implemented. Under the new law, concealed handgun licenses can be used to openly carry handguns.
“Students will certainly see an increase in people carrying their handguns, but I do not foresee it being a drastic change,” Yandell said. “The tendency to freak out is common, but stems mostly from lack of exposure and perception rather than reality. I hope that once these new guns laws are implemented, students will see the reality of the situation.”