Two rallies converged in the West Mall area on Thursday, vocalizing differing opinions on campus carry legislation that was passed by the Texas Senate in May.
The originally planned rally, organized by Gun-Free UT, featured students, professors and parents who voiced their opposition to the bill, which will allow for the concealed carry of guns on campus. Pro-campus carry advocates held a counter-rally in order to show their support for the bill.
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Two people not affiliated with UT were arrested during the rally, one for resisting arrest and criminal trespassing, and the other for criminal trespassing. The two protesters arrested were a part of the pro-campus carry counter rally and were trespassing on Gun-Free UT’s reserved rally space, according to UTPD.
One hundred and sixty-three UT professors oppose campus carry legislation and will refuse to have it enacted in their classroom, according to a petition started by a UT professor. Gun-Free UT hopes to influence change though their rally by making sure their voices are heard by administrators and legislators who could influence legislation, said Bryan Jones, a government professor who spoke at the rally.
“You can’t have freedom of speech where people might have guns in the classroom. It scares students from saying this in government class that they would say otherwise,” Jones said. “I know faculty members — I’m one of them — who would not have come to the University of Texas had this been in place before.”
Coincidentally, the rally occurred the same morning as a shooting that left 10 people dead at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. Campus carry is permitted in Oregon, but Umpqua Community College requires written authorization for firearms on campus.
Young Conservatives of Texas members and College Republicans members also made their presence known at the rally in order to support campus carry, said Allison Peregory, chairman of the Young Conservatives of Texas UT chapter. Peregory said she helped organize the counter rally with the rest of the anti-campus carry crowd in 48 hours in order to demonstrate viewpoints of different students on campus.
“We’re here to show that there is a presence here at UT of people who do support campus carry,” Peregory said. “The entire student body are not supporters of a Gun-free UT. There are supporters of campus carry here at UT and we’re here to voice that opinion.”
Ursula Walker, theater and dance senior who attended the rally, said although the bill has already been voted on, the University community can convince administrators with great influence to change the law. Walker said she hopes change will come because more weapons will not ensure anyone’s safety on campus.
“There’s this thing we say in theater, ‘If a gun comes on stage, it has to be used,’ because it doesn’t make sense to bring a gun out on stage if you’re not going to use it,” Walker said. “With that same idea, how can we expect less usage of guns if we’re putting more guns on the scene?”
College Republican President Madison Yandell said having a legal way for students to carry guns on campus is a good way to ensure safety and hopes that through the counter-rally, more people can see that campus carry does have many supporters on campus.
“There’s no reason why campus should be this black hole for self-defense and protecting ourselves,” Yandell said. “You don’t know if somebody is carrying illegally now, so there isn’t going to be any difference as it becomes a law next year. It’s not going to be open carry where we’re like waving our guns around in class using it as a threat to our professors or other students in class, that’s not the point of being allowed to conceal carry on campus. It’s a matter of self-defense.”
Clarification: While Oregon allows campus carry at public universities, Umpqua Community College requires written authorization for firearms on campus.