As citizens of the United States, we have the right to defend ourselves, and people who misuse guns should not be the reason that our Second Amendment rights are revoked. The recent Oregon shooting has many UT students worried about the possibility of shootings happening at UT, especially now that the state legislature is allowing campus carry.
Most people do not know that the absence or presence of campus carry laws would not have affected the Oregon shooting at Umpqua Community College, a campus with explicit rules prohibiting “possession or use, without written authorization, of firearms.” The illegality of bringing weapons to campus did not deter Chris Harper-Mercer from bringing five pistols, a rifle and five additional magazines to campus and then using them to kill his English teacher and eight other students. Campus carry does not allow everyone to have guns on campus, it only extends the rights of concealed handgun license holders to carry in buildings on campus.
President Fenves addressed campus carry misconceptions in a Texas Tribune Talk.
“The reality is, there won’t be a material change in the safety on our campus,” Fenves said. “We have had campus carry for a long time with the exception of buildings … The perception is that UT Austin and other public universities will be full of guns. How do we address this perception?”
On our own campus, CHL-holding students shot back at the 1966 Tower shooter, startling him so he stopped shooting for a while. Moreover, creating “gun free” zones will not deter shootings. For example, Sandy Hook Elementary School is a “gun free school,” yet everyone has heard about the tragic murders of those 20 elementary students and six adults. The shooter brought guns to the school in order to commit an illegal action, despite the illegal means.
While about 300 UT professors have signed a “no-gun pledge,” campus carry does not affect the legality of most of their students bringing guns into the classroom. Because CHL holders have to be at least 21 years of age and the majority of citizens are not CHL holders, campus carry will affect the legality of only a handful students bringing their guns onto our campus. Moreover, campus carry allows professors to bring weapons as well. Students would think twice about any actions, knowing that their professors could be armed.
According to The Washington Times, during Barack Obama’s presidency, the number of CHL holders has increased dramatically, while murder rates have been steeply declining. The article cites evidence from the Crime Prevention Research Center: “Since 2007, the number of concealed handgun permits has soared from 4.6 million to over 12.8 million, and murder rates have fallen from 5.6 killings per 100,000 people to just 4.2, about a 25 percent drop.”
The article states that this statistic makes sense because CHL holders are among the most law-abiding citizens: “In … Texas, permit holders are convicted of misdemeanors or felonies at one-sixth the rate that police officers are convicted.” The state of Texas recorded the number of murders committed by CHL holders between the years of 1996 and 2011 and found that in that time period, for every 100,000 people a CHL holder committed only 0.7 out of the six murders.
CHL holders are not the ones who need to be restricted from having guns. The focus needs to be on improving mental stability of people who misuse guns, and on ensuring that routes to illegal acquisition of firearms are blocked. At the end of the day, prohibiting guns on our campus will not deter shootings because an illegal means to an illegal act does not serve as a deterrent to criminals who, by definition, already disregard the law.
While the initial idea of campus carry seems scary, take a step back. Guns are allowed in West Campus and throughout Austin, but do you feel unsafe going around the city? Guns are allowed in UT parking lots and all over campus, but do you ever think twice about that? If CHL holders have not worried you in the past, the law-abiding gun owners will be no more problematic when armed in campus buildings.
Sammy Minkowitz is a government and economics sophomore from Houston. She is also a Student Government representative for the College of Liberal Arts and the social director for College Republicans.