Despite the objections of many, University of Texas at Austin (UT) President Greg Fenves announced the institution would be allowing licensed concealed gun owners to bring their weapons to class.
Personal Objections Aside, UT at Austin President Allows Guns in Classrooms
Fenves made his personal feelings about the issue known when he announced his decision on Feb. 18, 2016, to follow recommendations made by a campus study group in December 2015, “I do not believe handguns belong on a university campus, so this decision has been the greatest challenge of my presidency to date.” (DentonRC.com)
The objections of many of the university’s students, faculty and staff, including Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg, a physics professor at UT, was not enough for university president Fenves to overlook the campus carry law enacted by the Republican-dominated Texas legislature to begin August 1, 2016. The new law replaces one which exempted public universities in the state from following the concealed carry handgun law.
Still, Fenves’ decision to allow handguns in class and common areas of the university falls short of the full mandate of the new Texas law because the weapons will not be allowed in dormitories, a recommendation made by the campus study group. State law did allow for some gun-free zones to be set by the schools so long as they did not amount to a ban on campus carry. Whether prohibition of guns in dormitories will fulfill that statute is not known.
Open carry of weapons, allowed in the state of Texas, is not allowed on college campuses. A person must be 21-years-old to obtain a license for a concealed handgun, the only type of weapon the public universities must allow.
Gun advocates assert that the campus carry law follows Second Amendment rights and an important self-defense measure. Those opposed to allowing handguns on campuses are concerned about the change in atmosphere the weapons may bring to places that are institutions of higher learning, as expressed by Fenves in a letter written to UT System Chancellor William McRaven, “The presence of handguns at an institution of higher learning is contrary to our mission of education and research, which is based on inquiry, free speech, and debate.” (DentonRC.com)
Texas Private Universities Escape Mandate to Allow Concealed Carry Handguns on Campus
The new campus carry law requires public universities to allow handguns on campus, however private colleges remain free to choose whether to allow guns on premise or not. So far, none of the private colleges have chosen to allow guns on campus and four major Texas private schools have announced they will not do so: Baylor, Rice, Southern Methodist and Texas Christian.
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