Campus Carry goes into effect at University of Texas
On the 50th anniversary of one of the worst mass campus shootings in our nation's history, the state law allowing for concealed carry at public state universities went into effect. That included the University of Texas.
Just as a memorial service was being set to honor those wounded or killed by tower sniper Charles Whitman 50 years ago to the day, UT President Greg Fenves held a press conference to discuss the new state law allowing for concealed carry on campus.
"We understand the emotions. We understand the concern,” he said.
Fenves himself has said he doesn't feel guns belong in a university setting.
"Clearly we had to follow the law. Many students, I would say most students and most faculty did not support it,” said Fenves.
One of those faculty members is pharmacology professor Andrea Gore.
"I do think it's a sad day for this campus,” said Gore.
Gore says she knows of one professor and a dean who have resigned because of the guns on campus issue. In July, three professors filed a lawsuit against the attorney general, Fenves and the UT Board of Regents.
Gore, who teaches in a classroom laid out like a movie theater, worries about her safety should a shooting occur.
"I find that really a terrifying idea because I'm all the way at the front of the room. The doors are at the back of the room and I'm responsible for those students and their safety and I'm not certain how I would be able to control the classroom,” said Gore.
Fenves says he will be tracking the new law's impact on faculty and students.
Gerald Harkins, associate vice president for campus safety and security, expects that to be low as fewer than 1% of students have a license to carry.
"I'm hopeful that people can go on about their business and get back to teaching and doing research and we can get past where we're at,” said Harkins.
Still, some students are uneasy.
"I feel a little bit more danger because I understand the concealed carry law is for protection, but some people have mental issues and if someone gets angry there's always that risk of using the gun for the wrong purpose,” said student Milan Patel.
"I really don't feel less safe. I just on principle don't think you should be able to carry it on campus,” said student Sam Zapp.
Guns are not allowed everywhere. The university has created gun exclusion zones that include most residential dorms, high hazard labs, patient care areas and where pre k-12 activities are held. Hundreds of signs now mark those off-limit areas.
As students return to campus, Fenves encourages them to call 9-1-1 should they see a gun.
"We have a very safe campus. We have a historically safe campus and I think that will continue,” said Fenves.