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Home | Tag Archives: guns on campus

Tag Archives: guns on campus

UT System wants Campus Carry drafts by February

The University of Texas System expects its 14 schools to submit rules for concealed handguns on their campuses by mid-February to comply with the state’s new campus-carry law, officials said in a press release Tuesday.

The UT System Board of Regents will review the proposals, and will have the opportunity to change them, before official guidelines detailing where guns will be allowed and where they will not are finalized sometime this spring, the system said.

On Tuesday, a system task force issued a report on the law to university presidents and Chancellor Bill McRaven. It suggested five areas where guns should be banned — child care centers, stadiums, laboratories with dangerous chemicals, laboratories with animals and hospitals or clinics. Most individual schools were already expected to declare those areas gun-free.

The report did not make recommendations on more controversial areas, such as dormitories and classrooms. UT-Austin has suggested banning guns in dorms, though some state leaders say that would violate the new law. Many professors have been urging their university presidents to ban guns in classrooms. Lawmakers have said that would be illegal, too, and draft rules being considered at most of the biggest schools in the state don’t include classrooms in the gun-free zones.

The new campus carry law goes into effect Aug. 1. It allows people with concealed handgun licenses to carry their weapons inside university buildings, except in the limited gun-free zones designated by those schools. Those zones can’t have the practical effect of banning guns campus-wide, however.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:   – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, pol itics, government and statewide issues.

Texas Universities likely to allow guns in classrooms

The thousands of professors who attend the Modern Language Association’s annual conventions usually talk literature, linguistics and language. But last week in Austin, many took a break to focus on something outside the norm — guns. 

Hundreds of professors from the group marched down Congress Avenue on Friday waving signs and chanting their opposition to Texas’ new campus carry law. “Guns are not a teaching tool,” they yelled. “They do not belong in school.”

The event gained attention in academia, but the message may not go far in Texas. Universities contemplating how to comply with the law seem to be nearing a consensus that guns have to be allowed in classrooms next year.

The law, which requires colleges to allow people with concealed handgun licenses to carry their weapons at school starting Aug. 1, allows the schools to declare some portions of their campuses gun-free. But so far, classrooms aren’t making the list of gun-free places proposed at the state’s biggest universities. The University of Texas at Austin, Texas Tech University, Texas State University, the University of North Texas and the University of Texas at Arlington are already reviewing draft policies for campus carry, and none of them include bans on guns in classes.

Those rules are far from final. University presidents will review the drafts this spring and make their own recommendations. And official policies must be approved by the colleges’ boards of regents. But the similarity of the recommendations suggest that classroom gun bans are long-shots at most major universities.

“There are a lot of areas where people would like guns excluded, but we don’t have reasonable justifications for excluding them,” Marcilynn Burke, chairwoman of a task force reviewing possible rules at the University of Houston, told the UH System Board of Regents at a recent meeting. UH and Texas A&M University are still preparing their proposed rules.

The first round of recommendations are coming from campus task forces made up of students, faculty and other campus leaders. Those groups were given the job of gathering campus input and consulting with legal experts. They were then asked to propose rules to the presidents, who eventually will issue their own plans for board of regents approval.

Much of the input has been gathered at emotional public forums. Gun rights advocates said they feel safer with guns, and have a constitutional right to carry them at government-run institutions. Opponents said the law will make campuses dangerous, and hurt the academic environment.

“In order to learn, you need to be in a safe space,” said Anne Stewart, a graduate student of English at UT-Austin, at Friday’s rally.

But some task force members have said that banning guns in classrooms is probably not lawful.

That idea was most clear in the UT-Austin task force’s recommendations. At the end of their report, members tacked on a 1,200-word explanation for why they thought a classroom ban went too far.

“Every member of the Working Group – including those who are gun owners and license holders – thinks it would be best if guns were not allowed in classrooms,” the report said. “Nevertheless …we cannot recommend that classrooms should be designated a gun-exclusion zone.”

The law says gun-free zones can’t make it practically impossible to carry a gun at all, the report said. Since going to class is the main reason many people come to campus, a classroom ban would have that effect, the task force concluded.

The group considered setting up gun storage areas for students to use while in class, but decided that was too dangerous. The areas would need tight security, the report said. And the transfer of guns into storage raises a risk of accidental firing or other mishandling.

“It is all-too easy to imagine that there will be days when a license holder is running a bit late and thus will be less cautious in storing the handgun,” the report said.

State officials have reached similar conclusions. In a non-binding opinion issued last month, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said banning guns in classrooms would be illegal. Meanwhile, the author of the campus carry bill, State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, has said there would be “consequences” if schools tried such a ban.

That talk is frustrating to opponents of guns on campuses. And participants in Friday’s rally made another plea. After their march down Congress Avenue, members piled up books in front of the Capitol that have been known to spark heated classroom debates. Those kinds of discussions may be impossible if students think their classmates might have guns, the professors said.

But organizers of the event acknowledged that their fight faces long odds. Lisa Moore, an English professor at UT-Austin, said she’d like to see her campus leaders take a stand, even if they know it is doomed to fail in the courts or be shot down by the Legislature. If they don’t, faculty members will continue to voice their frustration, she said.

“We are participating in a long American tradition of dissent from unjust laws,” Moore said.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at Arlington, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, the University of Houston, the Texas State University System and the University of North Texas are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Author:  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, pol itics, government and statewide issues.

Texas AG Paxton: Universities can’t ban guns in dorms

Texas universities would violate the state’s new campus carry law if they banned guns in dormitories, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a nonbinding opinion issued Monday afternoon.

That opinion goes against recommendations made by a task force at the University of Texas at Austin, which suggested banning guns in dorms in a report to university President Greg Fenves earlier this month.

Universities were given some leeway under the new law allowing concealed license holders to carry handguns on campus — they are allowed to declare some buildings gun-free. But the law says those gun-free zones can’t have the effect of banning guns across campus; in other words, gun-free zones can’t make it impossible to reasonably carry a handgun at all.

In his opinion, Paxton said banning guns in dorms would have that effect. Plus, he noted, the new law allows universities to create rules for how guns are stored in dorms. That provision, he wrote, “presupposes [guns’] presence in dormitories.”

Paxton also said universities would violate the law if they ban guns in “a substantial number of classrooms.” No universities have proposed that type of ban so far, but many professors across the state have requested such a ban.

The University of Texas at Austin’s campus carry task force, which was chaired by Steven Goode, a professor at the university’s law school and expert on criminal law, came to a different conclusion.

In its recommendations, the task force noted that two or more students occupy most dorm rooms. If a gun were stored improperly, someone other than the owner would have access, the task force said.

“Consequently, we believe that the danger of accidental loss, theft, or misuse by roommates or others (including suicide or other violence) in on campus residence halls is unacceptably high,” the task force said.

The task force also noted that Texans need to be 21 years old or older to get a concealed handgun license. Almost 99 percent of UT-Austin students who are 21 or older live off campus, so the ban would only apply to the “tiniest fraction” of students, the task force said.

“And, as the data show, there are ample, and widely-used alternative housing arrangements available to those who wish to keep handguns in their rooms,” the task force said.

UT-Austin is currently the only major university considering recommendations that include banning guns in dorms, though many universities are still awaiting their task forces’ reports.

Paxton doesn’t weigh in on the safety issue; his opinion simply evaluates what’s in the law.

As attorney general, Paxton is the state’s top lawyer. Public officials regularly seek out his opinion when there’s some confusion about how a law should be interpreted. In this case, state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, the author of the bill, asked for Paxton to weigh in.

Schools don’t necessarily have to listen, however, and could still try to ban guns in dorms. If they do, they’ll likely face legal challenges from campus carry supporters.

Officials from the UT System have ignored opinions in the past. In May, Paxton told the UT System that it should hand over confidential admissions records to Regent Wallace Hall. The system didn’t listen — and eventually won a court battle over the issue.

The campus carry law goes into effect Aug 1, and universities are still in the process of writing their rules.

A UT-Austin spokesman released a short statement Monday night: “President Fenves is reviewing all relevant information as he studies how to implement SB 11 safely and lawfully on our campus.”

In another gun-related opinion released Monday, Paxton said that K-12 campuses — including sidewalks and parking areas — are to remain gun-free zones under the state’s new open-carry law as long as school-sponsored activities are taking place there.

“For instance, if a high school utilizes a school parking lot for a band rehearsal, that parking lot would likely fall within the scope of [the law] prohibiting weapons during the time of the rehearsal,” Paxton wrote. “Yet, the other parking areas at the school where school activities are not occurring would not fall within [the law] and would not be places where weapons are prohibited.”

Sen. John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat, requested the opinion.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed a law allowing license-holders to carry handguns openly in a hip or shoulder holster, changing current law requiring that such weapons be concealed.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

*Editor’s note: This story has been updated throughout.

Authors:  and  – The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, pol itics, government and statewide issues.

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