Campus carry rules to be finalized in early spring

Caleb Wong

All UT System institutions must submit draft rules regarding campus carry by mid-February for review by the UT System Board of Regents, according to a UT System press release.

The announcement came as the UT System released a report on campus carry, the concealed carry of guns in campus buildings, to member institutions last Tuesday. The report, composed by representatives from all UT System institutions, recommends excluding five areas from campus carry: child care facilities, patient care facilities, sporting events, laboratories and animal care centers.

The system report did not make specific, “across-the-board” recommendations regarding the carrying of guns in residence halls or classrooms, citing the vague nature of the law and widely diverging opinions from lawmakers and elected officials. Most Texas public universities are expected to allow guns in classrooms, according to a Jan. 10 article in the Texas Tribune.

UT-Austin’s working group report concurred completely with the UT System report, according to the chair of UT-Austin’s working group, Steven Goode.

“As chair of our Campus Carry working group, I served as the UT-Austin representative and was an active participant in the System working group’s discussions,” Goode, a law professor, said in a statement. “Consequently, throughout our Campus Carry working group’s deliberations, we were well aware of the System working group’s deliberations.”

While there is no formal process for the Board of Regents to approve draft rules, they can modify rules by a two-thirds vote. Final campus carry rules at each UT-System institution are expected to be finalized by early spring, according to the press release. Each institution is responsible for finalizing and implementing its own campus carry rules, according to the UT System working group report.

While UT-Austin’s report made the same recommendations as the UT System report, UT-Austin’s working group went further than the System report to recommend generally banning handguns in residence halls and allowing licensed gun holders to carry guns in classrooms. Roommates of licensed handgun owners could improperly access firearms and thus present an unacceptable risk, UT-Austin’s working group said.

Banning guns in residence halls would have a small effect on students because almost 99 percent of concealed carry holders, who must be 21 under Texas law, choose not to live in on-campus residence halls, according to an analysis by UT-Austin’s working group.

UT-Austin’s recommended ban on handguns in residence halls has come under scrutiny from lawmakers and elected officials. In a non-binding opinion by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Paxton said banning guns in dorms could violate the campus carry law. Because the law allows universities to create rules regarding the carrying and storage of guns in residence halls, it also presupposes that guns can be carried in dorms, Paxton wrote.

UT-Austin spokesperson Gary Susswein said UT President Gregory Fenves expects to establish final campus carry regulations within the next few weeks.

“We work in close collaboration with UT System on campus carry and a host of other issues and are reviewing the issues that the report lays out and explains,” Susswein said in a statement.