Students, faculty and guests can now carry concealed handguns on public college facilities, classrooms and dormitories in the state of Texas, despite opposition from teachers concerned about how the new law will impact their ability to teach.
On Aug. 1, a law went into effect that allows gun owners with a concealed carry license to carry guns in most campus buildings. While private universities have been allowed to refuse the new measure and open carry remains banned, public colleges now allow concealed handguns in the classroom.
It has been legal for Texans to carry concealed firearms into public places for 20 years, according to Fox News.
The legislation allowing for campus carry, known as Senate Bill 11, was signed passed by a Republican majority Texas legislature and then signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott in 2015.
Now students aged 21 and older with a license to concealed carry will be allowed to enter the majority of public college facilities with their firearm.
The University of Texas system estimates that less than 1 percent of its students actually have such a license, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
The University of Texas at Austin has ruled that teachers will have the right to designate their offices as gun-free zones, although advocates for campus carry are already lobbying to have those concessions struck down.
The campus carry law went into effect on the same day that the University of Texas of Austin was commemorating the deaths of 17 individuals killed by sniper Charles Whitman, who committed the mass shooting from the campus clock tower on Aug. 1, 1966.
Clif Drummond, 72, who witnessed Whitman’s mass shooting, blasted the decision to enact the new campus carry law on the same day that the college was honoring victims of gun violence.
“I think it was a careless decision by whoever made it to not realize that it would be the 50th anniversary of the shooting,” Drummond told The Dallas Morning News.
Texas lawmakers have insisted that the starting date of the campus carry law occurring on the same day as the tragedy’s anniversary was a coincidence.
Jacqueline Vickery, an assistant professor of the University of North Texas, has joined other teachers warning that the new law could infringe on their ability to teach.
“Our job means we sometimes have to confront students about uncomfortable issues,” Vickery said. “If a student feels the need to bring a gun into my office, I do not know how else to interpret that other than they view me as a threat.”
Allison Peregory, a pre-law student of the University of Texas, voiced support for the new measure, saying she would like to be armed to defend herself from campus assault.
“I’m female student on campus, who probably wouldn’t put up too much of a good fight if something were to happen ... It’s important for people to have their right to self-defense be protected,” Peregory said.