By Alexa Brackin
Students have engaged in a verbal gunfight that has resulted from the proposal of The Campus Personal Protection Act, introduced by Texas State Sen. Brian Birdwell in early January.
The bill has already resulted in a petition by Baylor professors. Now, students are going vocal.
“I think everyone should have the right to carry a concealed handgun anywhere they want,” Brownsville senior Ruben Pizana said. “But there are restrictions for a reason. I think the concealed carry process should be at least five times harder.”
Pizana, who competes in long-range silhouette shooting and speed shooting competitions, said the current test to obtain a concealed handgun license is too lenient, and as of right now he is not comfortable with the idea of concealed carry on campus.
Many students believe that having guns on campus will only add to any potential violence if it were to break out.
“In Texas, I’m aware that people carry concealed all the time, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to have that many concealed guns in such a small space such as a university campus,” Nashville sophomore Brette Moseley said. “I’m aware you have to take a certification course, but people in their 20s still have not fully gotten the calm, cool and collected thing down yet. If a fight were to start and people get hot-headed and they realize, ‘Oh, I have a gun on me’ and they try to use it as a scare factor, where does the scare stop so that people don’t get hurt?”
In a public petition letter to Birdwell, Baylor professors expressed concern for their safety in a classroom that permitted concealed carry.
“This bill would be allowing concealed carry. Meaning professors aren’t going to see the weapons,” Shallowater graduate student Travis Jones said in response to the professors. “Not allowing concealed carry on campus does not necessarily stop students from illegally carrying concealed weapons on campus as it is.”
The majority of students interviewed for this story were opposed to the legalization of concealed carry on campus, many of which stated that due to their lack of familiarity with guns, they would not feel safe.
“People having guns on campus would make me feel less safe,” Dansville, N.Y. senior Ashley Koerner said. “I really don’t feel like there is a need for guns on Baylor campus.”
Waco junior Trenton Garza, president of the Texas College Democrats, said that because the population of students on campus who would be eligible to get a CHL is so small due to the age restriction of 21 and older, the bill would not affect many students in the first place and thus should not set a major legal standard.
“As of now, current policy states that universities can set up their own policies regarding concealed carry,” Garza said. “Thus far, no school has chosen to do so. The Constitution doesn’t specifically give us the right to concealed carry. That is why states are able to regulate it.”
Pizana said that he thinks if the bill were to pass, the number of students who get their CHL will go up.
“It’s one of those things, if you tell them they can’t they are going to try,” Pizana said. “By having such a heated debate about campus carry, if the law passes, students are going to want to get certified just because.”
According to people who are in favor of the legislation, their main concern is their individual safety. They say that carrying their guns, or knowing that there are licensed gun carriers around them, makes them feel safer.
“Concealed carry is meant to arm people who know what they are doing behind the barrel of a gun,” Houston junior Lauren Linthicum said. “These people have proven to be knowledgeable and responsible gun owners. They have a greater understanding of what it means to have a weapon and what their responsibilities are.”
Many students who have their CHL said they are comfortable around guns and know the physical and emotional demands of carrying a concealed weapon.
“I believe I would be capable of protecting myself and others because I know how to use my weapon properly,” Linthicum said. “I know that being a carrier means it is my responsibility to protect myself and those around me in the event of danger.”
McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara has stated, “Cowards love gun-free zones.” He explained that they tend to choose the most vulnerable places because they can do the most damage.
“I think it’s a good idea with all things that are going on, that the more people who have these concealed carry weapons (on campus), it lets others who want to cause trouble stay off campus,” Nashville, Tenn., junior Morgan Evans, president for the Baylor Marksmen Association, said.
Five states, Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin, currently have provisions allowing concealed carry on public campuses. While the states differ in their exact rules of on-campus carry, Wisconsin has a provision that allows campuses to prohibit weapons inside campus buildings if signs are posted at every entrance explicitly stating the prohibition at every entrance.
“I would support something like Wisconsin has to let student have guns on campus grounds and in their cars but students should not be allowed to take them in their campus buildings,” Moseley said. “I support the idea of a safe environment in the high-pressure situation of a classroom.”
This is not the first time that Baylor students and administration has been up in arms over the concealed carry issue. In 2011, Texas State Rep. David Simpson introduced a similar bill to the Texas House of Representatives that would have required both public and private institutions to allow concealed carry.
The bill did not pass, but it did ignite President Ken Starr to make a treck to Austin to rally against the bill on behalf of the Baylor administration.
The current bill would most likely not affect Baylor, as Starr stated in 2011 that the university would not allow on campus carry, but some students feel that Baylor should rethink this decision.
“Baylor University needs to take this bill very seriously and consider all options. We are just as big as public schools, so we should take it seriously like any other school,” Evans said.
Jones said that Baylor should revisit the issue of concealed carry on campus if the bill is passed.
“It deserves to be treated with a more open mind than it has been so far,” he said. “Unfortunately gun control issues are only ever discussed in the wake of major disasters such as Virginia Tech. They are never talked about when a student uses a weapon for self defense.”