New Texas gun law prompts concern from students, law enforcement

A new bill allows for adults in Texas to carry handguns in public without a permit or training. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

By Matt Kyle | Staff Writer

On Sept. 1, 666 new laws went into effect in Texas, including laws restricting access to abortion and voting. Also included in the series of new legislation is House Bill 1927, otherwise known as the “constitutional carry” bill. The bill allows Texans 21 and older who aren’t barred from owning a gun to carry a handgun in public, both openly and concealed, without a permit or training.

The removal of requirements for training has raised safety concerns among law enforcement agencies in Texas. Waco Police Department spokesperson Cierra Shipley said the department is concerned about people carrying guns without training on the proper use and storage of the weapon.

Waco chief of police Sheryl Victorian said in a statement that she strongly recommends that anyone planning to carry a weapon receive all of the proper training on gun safety.

“Publicly carrying a weapon comes with much responsibility,” Victorian said. “Persons deciding to carry should only do so if they are properly educated on the law, gun safety and the emotional, mental and physical consequences that may occur from its use.”

Proponents of the bill have argued that the bill protects the rights of gun owners and that more “good guys” carrying guns could potentially stop mass shooters.

Georgetown sophomore Parker Wise said he supports the bill because it is more in line with the “authorial intent” of the founding fathers when they wrote the Second Amendment. Wise also said the Second Amendment is important because it protects the American people against government suppression and enables people to defend themselves.

“Because the Second Amendment is one of the articles of the Bill of Rights, to remove that removes a fundamental element of what Americanism in American political philosophy is,” Wise said. “The people need to be able to keep and bear arms if they’re going to be free people and if they’re not going to be suppressed by the government.”

Critics of the bill have argued that the bill could allow for higher levels of gun violence and that responding officers would not be able to tell the difference between a “good guy” with a gun and a “bad guy” when responding to a mass shooting situation.

Co-president of Texas Rising and Pasadena senior Ayla Dodson-Hestand called the bill a “mistake” and said she worries about the potential dangers of having people armed without training.

“Greg Abbott talked about how it was the freedom of the Lone Star State, but I think it’s more just endangering the citizens of the Lone Star State, if anything,” Dodson-Hestand said.

Dodson-Hestand also said that people owning guns and carrying them without training could potentially lead to more firearm accidents. She also said that seeing people walking around with guns would make her feel unsafe.

“I don’t know anybody that walks around and sees someone just like walking around with a gun and is like, ‘Oh, I feel so much better now,’” Dodson-Hestand said. “You’re uncomfortable, you don’t know what type of person that is, you don’t know who it is or why they have [a gun].”

President of College Democrats of Baylor and San Antonio junior Alice Shelly said she is concerned that the law will embolden hate groups by allowing them to use the carrying of a weapon as a “scare tactic.”

Shelly also said she feels that lawmakers listened to gun lobbyists instead of voters. She cited a Texas Tribune poll that found that 59% of overall voters did not support the bill.

Prior to the bill’s passage, Texans were required to have a license to carry a handgun and had to go through four to six hours of training, take a written exam and perform a shooting proficiency test.

Texans are still required to undergo background checks before purchasing a gun, and the carrying of a firearm is also still prohibited in a number of places, including colleges, schools, courts and hospitals.

Mark Childers, associate vice president of public safety and security for Baylor’s Department of Public Safety, said in a statement that the new law does not change Baylor’s prohibition of the carrying of a firearm on campus and that the university has posted new signage reiterating this.

“Baylor University prohibits the carrying of any firearms in the university’s buildings, on its grounds or land,” Childers said. “The new law does not change that prohibition. Our public safety officers maintain a high level of vigilance and awareness and continue to work for the safety and security of the students, faculty and staff.”