‘Get Your Gun’

Morgan O’Hanlon

When he saw the bloody knife, Sam Kellogg thought it was a prop in a protest. On the May 2017 afternoon when accused murderer Kendrex White killed one and injured three in an on campus stabbing, Kellogg, now a government junior, was outside Gregory Gymnasium with his girlfriend.

“Get your gun,” Kellogg remembers his girlfriend saying.

Kellogg, who has spent nine years in the Marine Corps, had left his gun in his car that day. He’d recently moved to Austin and was unsure whether or not his Virginia Resident Concealed Handgun Permit was valid in Texas.

The man with the knife ran past them and slashed someone sitting at a table nearby. That’s when Kellogg knew it was serious.

Within seconds, the entire area in front of the gym cleared out and Kellogg did what he could to help in the situation: Call the police. He stayed on the phone until they arrived.

“Had I had my weapon on me at the time, I think I would’ve been able to stop him at the food truck, and he wouldn’t have gotten any further,” Kellogg said.

Kellogg now carries his gun to campus every day. He’s one of roughly 500 people estimated by the University to carry on campus. Texas requires License to Carry a Handgun applicants be at least 21 years old, making 48.2 percent of UT students eligible to obtain a license, according to 2017 census data collected by the University.

Campus carry had been in place for over 20 years when Senate Bill 11 went into effect on Aug. 1, 2016, the 50th anniversary of the UT Tower shooting. The new law allowed guns in all University buildings with some exceptions, including labs and certain professors’ offices.

On the day of SB 11’s implementation, three UT professors filed a lawsuit against the University in an attempt to strike down the law, along with a wave of activism that overtook the campus.

The lawsuit, brought by professors Lisa Moore, Mia Carter and Jennifer Glass, was blocked by a lower court, and that ruling was upheld on Aug. 16 of this year by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. With no word yet as to whether or not the professors will appeal to the Supreme Court, it looks like campus carry is here to stay.

From 2015 to 2016, coinciding with campus carry and open carry becoming law, there was a 69.6 percent increase in the number of license applications issued per year by the Texas Department of Public Safety, according to DPS data. The only training required for LTC applicants in the state of Texas is a 4–6 hour class and 1–2 hours of range instruction.

Cesar Gonzalez, an LTC holder who spent over a decade as a Marine, said he’s satisfied with the level of training Texas requires for licensure but isn’t opposed to additional legislation regulating gun ownership.

“I know that whatever regulation they pass, I’m going to pass that (requirement),” said Gonzalez, a Mexican American studies senior. “I’m going to get through whatever background check they need, (and) I’m going to still be able to carry my weapon.”

In the two years since campus carry’s implementation, organizations such as Cocks Not Glocks have all but disappeared from campus. Gun Free UT signs remain in office windows on the South Mall — but maybe not for much longer.

With a stockpile of dildos boxed up in her parents’ garage, Cocks Not Glocks organizer Ana López has passed the torch on to anti-gun activists in other states and is campaigning for Julie Oliver, a candidate advocating for gun control and running for Texas’ 25th Congressional District.

As López holds out hope for future political action, she remains worried about the presence of guns on campus.

“It’s like saying that if you’ve got a scorpion in your bedroom, and if it hasn’t bitten you yet, than you might as well keep it in there,” López, a Plan II and health and society senior, said.

Although Moore has hope for the future of her lawsuit, Professor Lucas Powe, who teaches classes on the First and Second Amendments at UT School of Law, is doubtful of any lasting impact.

Even if the lawsuit was appealed to the Supreme Court, “there’s no way they’d hear it,” Powe said. “Their only hope is in the (Texas) Legislature.”

Moore maintains her belief that classrooms should be a place where students don’t have to worry about these threats.

“If everyone’s jockeying for the seat where they can defend themselves if a shootout starts, we’re not gonna talk about Jane Austen much,” said Moore, an English professor who has designated her office as a gun-free zone.

Quinn Cox, southwest regional director of Students for Campus Carry, said his organization is actively working to remove the policy allowing professors to prohibit guns in their offices. For Cox, campus carry’s requirement for firearms to be concealed means a professor would never know if their students were carrying. Under the law, carriers are not obligated to tell others whether or not they have a weapon on them.

Cox said the organization would not allow its gun-carrying members to comment for this article.

“The beauty of concealed campus carry is that it’s concealed,” Cox said in a Facebook message. “Nobody knows you’re doing it, and I believe it should stay that way.”

Kellogg said if asked whether or not he was carrying a firearm, he wouldn’t answer — but he still wishes he was carrying on the day of the stabbing.

He hopes the ability to carry on campus would prevent another such tragedy from occurring.

“There are people like myself or other people that carry that have a similar experience that I do with weapons,” Kellogg said. “I think ultimately (campus) is a safer place.”