Texas Senate Bill 11 passed this past legislative session and was subsequently signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott in June. It allows the carrying of concealed weapons by people with permits at public and private university campuses (private institutions can choose to opt out of this requirement) starting August 2016.
The Campus Carry Working Group is tasked with creating policies to regulate concealed handgun carrying on campus. The Rider and several other media outlets covered the town halls that happened during these past weeks. These events were filled with members of the university community expressing their disagreement and agreement with this new law.
The main goal of the town halls was to get input from the community about the regulations we should implement to control gun carrying on campus. It was exciting to see the number of students who were eager to participate and make their voices heard. Many professors and students had inspiring stories and comments on their stance for/against this law. It was evident that most of our constituents are very concerned with the impact SB11 could have in our campus life and in our education. Knowing that a big part of the student body feels uneasy about the possible repercussions of this law is concerning as the student body president.
An article by David Kopel of The Washington Post examines the case of the state of Colorado, which has allowed concealed handgun carry by permit-holders on their public university campuses since 2003. They have not had a mass shooting or major gun-related incident at any of their institutions of higher education. Kopel also mentions that in numbers provided by the U.S. Census Bureau for the National Crime Victimization Survey, between 1992 and 2002, 26 out of 2,000 people interviewed who were raped or sexually assaulted said they used a weapon to protect themselves. “In none of those 26 cases was the rape completed.”
To understand just how big of an impact SB11 could have at our campus, let’s look at the following figures:
For the Fall 2014 semester, the Edinburg campus had 21,015 students officially enrolled (Data provided by the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness of UTPA). Of those 21,015, 12,723 are age 21 or older (21 is the minimum age to be eligible to be a license holder in Texas). The population of Texas for 2014, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was 29.96 million. The Texas Department of Public Safety reported as of Dec. 31, 2014, there were 825,957 active license holders. Based on those figures, 1.67 percent of the student body on the Edinburg campus could be active license holders. I would dare to say that the percentage of license holders on the Brownsville campus would be similar.
Unfortunately, I did not have the statistics for the Brownsville campus available when writing this. However, the numbers provided should be enough to let everyone know that, no, our campus will not be significantly more dangerous than what it is right now with SB 11 in place. I firmly believe that people with permits to carry guns are among the most responsible in our society. We will continue to be as safe a campus as before, and we will continue to work to make sure this is preserved. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to relax and send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Student involvement in institutional decision-making helps our university grow greater each day.
UTRGV Student Government Association president