By Regina Dennis
Waco Tribune-Herald via Associated Press
More than 600 Baylor University students signed a petition supporting proposed state legislation that would allow concealed gun carry on college campuses.
Leaders from the Baylor Young Conservatives of Texas student group on Thursday delivered the petition to the Waco office of state Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Grandbury, who authored Senate Bill 182. The bill would allow concealed handgun license holders to carry weapons on public college and university campuses.
The group organized the petition in response to one Baylor faculty members delivered to Birdwell’s office last month opposing the bill. About 120 faculty and staff members signed the first petition, though another 50 have since supported it, according to Baylor religion Blake Burleson, who helped organize the anti-SB 182 effort.
Private institutions like Baylor would still have the option of banning guns from their campuses, even if the bill were to become law.
Baylor officials have said they are opposed to allowing guns on campus because it could create greater safety concerns.
Zachary Maxwell, 23, director of operations for the Young Conservatives group, has a concealed handgun license. He said he believes SB 182 would allow students to better respond to danger around campus. Maxwell said a few times during a semester, students are notified by email of a robbery or incident near or at Baylor. “Most of the time the email is sent two hours after the incident has happened, so there could be a case where a young man or woman walking in the area walks right into the situation because they don’t know what’s happening,” said Maxwell, a political science junior. “I’m not saying (local and campus police) are not doing a good job, but they’re not Superman and they can’t be everywhere at once.”
Brandon Waltens, chairman of the Baylor Young Conservatives, noted that to receive a concealed handgun license, gun owners must be at least 21, so the legislation would not mean a massive influx of students carrying weapons around campus.
Waltens, 19, said he hopes Baylor would re-consider its opposition to allowing concealed carry if the bill passes. He said it would decrease the likelihood that Baylor could be the target of an attack and allow campus members an option to protect themselves.
Students made up the majority of the petition’s signees, but it also garnered support from some faculty members, like Baylor economics professor Earl Grinols.
“The issue of freedom, I think, is at issue here,” Grinols said. “If some professor wants to say, ‘I would rather designate my classroom a gun-free classroom,’ I think maybe that person should have that right, but if somebody like me says, ‘I want to be protected,’ if they have a (concealed) carry permit and say there’s a girl with a gun in her purse in my classroom, I’m delighted at that.”
Grinols said when his oldest daughter was in college during the early 1990s, he took her to a gun range to practice shooting and gave her his .45-caliber pistol to carry in her car while driving back and forth to an out-of-state school.
Grinols’ daughter said one night as she was driving to the family’s home in Illinois, she was chased down and run off the road by a man driving an 18-wheeler who tailed her from a roadside rest stop. When the man got out of the truck and approached her car, she retrieved the gun from the glove compartment and pointed it at him, forcing him to retreat.
While Grinols instructed his daughter to always store the gun in a safe deposit box once she made it to her college, not carry it around campus, he said he still believes students have a right to protect themselves against potential threats on school grounds.
Staff Writer Lowell Brown contributed to this report.