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“Campus carry” isn’t far off, if Texas lawmakers get their way
Staying on top of your busy college schedule often feels like a battle. Unfortunately, for some that battle is all too real.
Less than 30 days into this new year, our nation has seen five school shootings, three of which took place on college campuses, one of them in this state.
None of these attacks have even approached the massive death toll of the Sandy Hook shootings in Newtown, Conn. last December, but the fact remains that for students returning to the University of North Texas this semester, the threat of on-campus violence is a bigger concern than ever before.
Gun sales have remained at an all-time high across the nation since the Newtown shooting, but simply keeping a gun at home doesn’t help much when a shooter attacks a public place—so some owners explore a more hidden option.
Most states allow gun owners to carry a concealed handgun after proper training. In Texas, this is known as a concealed handgun license or CHL, and requires passing a safety course, demonstrating target accuracy during a qualifying shooting session, providing fingerprints and undergoing a background check.
Licensees are still barred from carrying their weapons in schools, bars, most sporting events and federal buildings.
But in light of recent shootings in these supposedly gun-free places, some handgun owners, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, don’t all agree with a blanket ban. After all, they argue, if licensed, law-abiding students and faculty can’t return fire to a gunman on their campus, how are they expected to defend themselves?
“There are already guns on campus. All too often they are illegal. I want there to be legal guns on campus.”
– Gov. Rick Perry
Texas has relatively loose gun laws compared to other states, but still prohibits carrying a concealed weapon on a college campus, at least for now.
But if a bill filed earlier this month by Republican state Sen. Brian Birdwell makes it to Gov. Perry’s desk, you might soon see a lot more firepower walking the hallways of Texas colleges.
Or, to be more precise, you wouldn’t see it. The proposed bill, SB 182, would allow college students, faculty and staff members who hold concealed handgun licenses to carry their guns on campus.
Proposals like this aren’t too uncommon. In fact, similar laws have passed in Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.
But are concealed handgun owners able to defend our school against violent threats? The evidence is mixed.
A study of Texas CHL holders found that between 1996 and 2001, 41 CHL holders were arrested for murder and attempted murder. In fact, licensees were arrested for weapon-related offenses 81 percent more often than the general adult population.
We can ignore the increased capacity for crime, but the question remains of whether armed civilians are capable of turning the tide during a massacre.
A “mass shooting” is defined by the FBI as an isolated incident of gun violence involving four or more deaths, not including the life of the shooter.
There have been at least 60 mass shootings in the U.S. since 1980, and none of these incidents were definitively stopped in progress by an armed civilian.
Mass shooters have been killed by bystanders in the past, but these interventions took place after the shooting had ceased, while the killer attempted to escape the scene.
When individuals do take down mass murderers, they are almost always trained professionals like police officers, security guards or military personnel. When ordinary citizens try to intervene, the results are more often negative.
In 2005 alone, two concealed-carry permit holders were shot on separate occasions when they tried to stop mass shootings, one succumbing to his injuries.
Law enforcement responders train for these chaotic situations, but adding the unpredictable factor of other armed individuals to an already tense situation is a recipe for disaster.
A police officer who sees a person carrying a gun on the scene of a massacre can’t tell if they’re attempting to stop the shooting, or perpetrating the shooting themselves, and the officer may not stop to ask before taking a shot.
If multiple gun-toting good Samaritans respond to a shooting, there’s also a good chance they’ll mistake each other for the shooter. After all, the good guys don’t wear blue, and mistakes can happen in the heat of the moment.
This isn’t speculation, it happened to Joe Zamudio, an Arizona man who responded to the shooting of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others in Tucson.
Zamudio nearly fired at a man he saw holding a gun at the scene, but we’re glad he didn’t, since the man was holding the gun after wrestling it away from the actual shooter.
We’re not looking at this issue because we’re necessarily against guns or pro-gun control. This is Texas, and many of us on this editorial board own firearms, are familiar with shooting sports, or even plan on receiving their own CHL certifications.
That being said, we don’t think Texas needs this bill.
There’s simply not enough evidence that guns stop these massacres from occurring, and we’re not comfortable with the risk of loaded weapons around us on campus unless they’re in the hands of professionals.
Owning guns for fun, sport, and personal protection is an American right, but we can’t advocate putting our fellow students at further risk in a deadly situation.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that we should stand idle. As the threat of shootings continues, we’d like to see the administration of this university outline their emergency response plans for on-campus gun violence in detail.
Directly informing students on how their safety is ensured, along with what they should do to protect themselves and those around them if such a tragedy strikes, will ensure peace of mind for everyone—not just the ones with the guns.