Editor's Note: This column is one in a point-counterpoint debit on the merits of campus carry in Texas universities.
Since the Texas Legislature began debating campus carry earlier this year, debate has raged over the issue on college campuses around the state. Proponents have espoused security benefits and the expansion of Second Amendment rights as benefits of the legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on June 13th. Detractors have largely cited safety concerns, claiming that the stressful nature of a campus environment will inevitably lead to instances of gun violence under the new law.
As an individual who went through the extensive background check, class and firearm proficiency assessment required to obtain a concealed handgun license in the state of Texas, I’ve been somewhat perplexed by opponents’ allegations that my carrying a concealed weapon while walking along the south side of Dean Keeton as opposed to the north side, or along the east side of Guadalupe as opposed to the west side, would somehow pose a new danger to campus.
In an attempt to answer that very question — Am I, or other concealed carriers, actually dangerous to college campuses? — I contacted Steve Mecham, chief of the Utah State University Police Department, located in a state with roughly two and a half times the number of permitted concealed carriers per capita as Texas. Upon being asked if campus carry had caused any safety concerns at Utah State since Utah’s implementation of the law in 2006, Mecham replied that the only concern campus carry has presented is the accidental, unintentional exposure of a weapon on campus approximately once a year. Mecham explicitly stated that his department has no crime involving a person in legal possession of a firearm at Utah State on record.
Mecham’s statements are not the only indication that campus carry presents no real threat to the safety or sanctity of campus. Students for Concealed Carry, a national pro-campus carry advocacy group, determined that the more than 150 college campuses in the United States on which concealed carry has already been legalized have experienced no discernible increase in crime or violence after extensive research, citing peer-reviewed studies from the National Academy of Sciences and the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. And this is a seemingly intuitive conclusion, given the statistically proven law-abiding nature of concealed carriers; of more than 960,000 convictions obtained in Texas courtrooms from 1996 to 2013, only 2,250 or them, or 0.23 percent, were rendered against CHL holders per statistics kept by the Texas Department of Public Safety. When these statistics are compared against the total number of Texans licensed to carry a firearm by DPS and the total population of Texas, it becomes apparent that the typical Texas CHL holder is approximately 83 percent less likely to be convicted of a crime than a non-CHL holder.
While I remain highly skeptical of the claims that campus carry will amount to campus danger, I will admit to a degree of skepticism about campus carry’s alleged safety benefits as well. Although I agree that the original 1995 Texas concealed carry law has yielded a major reduction in Texas crime as a 2000 report from the National Center for Policy Analysis suggested, I think it remains to be the seen whether the effects will be similar in the unique, insular and already generally safe environment that is a college campus. However, one thing is abundantly clear: Campus carry is safe in itself, and any belief to the contrary is simply unfounded.
Andrew Parks is a first year law student.