Texas law makers are poised to allow its students and professors to carry concealed firearms on campus so that they can defend themselves. This will be the second attempt by the lone star state to allow firearms on campus and the second state to allow weapons on campus. It is part of a broader campaign to open up this part of society to firearms. Currently more than half the members of the Texas House have signed on as co-authors of a measure directing universities to allow concealed handguns. The Senate passed a similar bill in 2009 and is expected to do so again. It’s no surprise that Governor Rick Perry, who carries a gun while jogging, is in favor of the idea. If the law passes then all 38 universities and 500,000 students will be able to take their firearm on campus and in class which many say could prevent the types of shootings seen at Virginia Tech.
Utah was the first state to pass such a broad measure that allows firearms on campus and in class and so far there have been no reported firearms incidents on campus. Colorado offers a different approach in that they give the universities the option to allow students the right to bear arms or not and several universities do allow their students to pack heat. Colorado has also not seen an increase in gun violence on campus. Supporters of the legislation say that gun violence on campuses, such as the mass shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Northern Illinois in 2008; show that the best defense against a gunman is students who can shoot back. Students at Virginia Tech who were members of the VT Gun Club at the time of the shooting also felt that if they had their weapons with them that they could have interdicted.
The worst shooting on a college campus, before Virginia Tech, took place at the University of Texas in 1966. Charles Whitman climbed the now infamous tower in the middle of the campus and opened fire with his high power sniper rifle, M1 Carbine and shotgun. He killed 16 and injured dozens more. Had it not been for the brave citizens who were present the body count may have been much higher. The police out gunned and pinned down, rounded up Texans who had firearms in their trucks and instructed them to open fire at the tower. The barrage of fire that the average Texans laid down was enough that several officers were able to sneak up the 16 story tower and kill Whitman. Many who’re not in favor of students carrying firearms on campus fail to mention this heroic story.
It seems logical that Texas would approve such a measure considering their long lineage of gun rights. Guns occupy a special place in Texas culture. Politicians often tout owning a gun as essential to being Texan. Concealed handgun license holders are allowed to skip the metal detectors that scan Capitol visitors for guns, knives and other contraband. If Texans are able to responsibly carry firearms within the classroom it could pave the way for other states to pass similar measures. However guns on campus bills have been rejected in 23 states since 2007 but the Texas bill looks unstoppable.
Just because Texas is opening up college campuses to firearms does not mean that all students will be rushing out to buy themselves a pistol. Texas currently has 461,724 license holders out of over 24 million residents as of Dec. 31, according to the state Department of Public Safety and U.S. Census.