BLANCO, Texas — College students in Texas are pushing for legislation that grants the right to bear arms on campus in the wake of last year's massacre at Virginia Tech.
Currently, Utah is the only state that specifically allows the carrying of concealed weapons at public universities. A 2003 Colorado law allowed universities to adopt their own policies, and Colorado State decided not to ban licensees from carrying weapons into locations other than residence halls, said Brad Bohlander, a spokesman for the university.
In 1995, Texans won the right to obtain licenses to carry concealed weapons after an emotional legislative debate. Firearms are banned on college campuses, but the state is now caught up in the new national debate to change that law.
House Law Enforcement Chairman Joe Driver, R-Garland, recently held a hearing on the issue. He said he plans to introduce a bill to remove college campuses from the list of places where guns are prohibited. Although the issue is a priority of the National Rifle Association, Driver said he doesn't know whether the bill will gain sufficient support.
"There will be some opposition," Driver said in Sunday's Houston Chronicle. "It's always the same arguments that were presented when we first passed the concealed handgun law: 'Situations will get inflamed. People will drink.'"
Legislators listened to students and gun lobbyists at the hearing. Another speaker was Tim Gottleber, a computer information technology professor at North Lake College near Dallas. He told legislators that he can evacuate students if there is a fire or tornado, but he's powerless to defend them from a predatory gunman.
"If there is an active shooter on campus, I'm only supposed to sit and watch my students die," Gottleber said.
Rice University Police Chief Bill Taylor told the panel, however, that the limited amount of training provided to concealed handgun licensees doesn't prepare them to do the job of law enforcement officers.
"I would hate to think we're going to overreact to some very serious events to the point where we now create situations that are much more difficult," Taylor said.
Marsha McCartney, president of the North Texas Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, also opposes allowing firearms on campuses. She said bills to allow concealed handguns on campus have been introduced in 17 states and have failed in 15, including Virginia, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Two states, Michigan and Ohio, have legislation pending.
Suicide and college drinking are reasons enough to keep guns off campuses, she said.
"For once, we need to think of our students instead of what the gun lobby wants," McCartney said. "I do fear it would be passed here after all these other states have sensibly said no."
But Cameron Schober, a 22-year-old Texas State student, said he wants the right to protect himself if caught in a situation like the one that unfolded on Virginia Tech's campus on April 16, 2007. Seung-Hui Cho, a student, killed 32 people before committing suicide in the deadliest shooting rampage by a single gunman in U.S. history.
"School's not a safe place anymore," Schober said. "How horrible would that be to have to sit under a desk and wait for the cops to come."
Schober was among 13 people who recently completed a shooting proficiency and eight-hour classroom course, prerequisites to obtaining a license to legally carry a concealed handgun in Texas.
Applications for first-time licenses and renewals were up 24 percent during the first five months of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007.
Our campus right here in Orlando is trying to do the same. They wore empty gun holsters to prove their point. It seems petitions and other types of protesting don't even have affect...... At least when it comes to the second amendment.