Over 5,000 supporters, including more than 390 faculty members, have signed a petition to oppose guns in campus classrooms, dorms and offices. Gun-Free UT, the group that started the petition, formed shortly after the passing of SB11 and has been actively seeking to repeal the law by speaking out at public forums and organizing rallies.
While its concerns are understandable, Gun-Free UT bypassed pivotal stages in the legislative process that could have been capitalized on. The first mistake was creating the petition well after the bill had been signed into law. The second was intensifying uproar only when the legislation became a reality, instead of just a proposal.
At this point, opponents must work twice as hard to repeal a law which the legislature gave the green light. Opponents of the law should have participated at the same rate as gun advocates, and as early on.
The first public hearing concerning the bill was held in February, one week after Gov. Greg Abbott went on record saying the bill would probably pass. A month later, the state Senate approved campus carry, and three months after that, the bill was signed into law.
Throughout this time gun advocates have been attending press hearings and staging rallies at the State Capitol. In contrast, the anti-campus carry petition only came into existence in the last couple of weeks, according to Bryan Jones, a government professor and Gun-Free UT spokesperson.
While it’s admirable to stand up for one’s convictions, at the point in which legislation turned into law, the opposition should have formed a different argument. The rhetoric should switch from banning guns on campus in their entirety to advocating for stricter regulations in campus carry’s enforcement.
Through the working group, UT has the freedom and flexibility to tailor the bill. Those who recognize this opportunity are pushing for the creation of gun-free zones and gun lockers.
Public Health professor Alfred McAlister, who researches collective violence policy, is not a part of Gun-Free UT and said his personal experience surviving the 1966 Tower shooting and growing up on Air Force bases shapes his perception of the law. He said he believes there are valuable lessons to learn when it comes to crafting the guidelines of the bill’s implementation.
“I hope Adm. McRaven will demand the same regulations on unauthorized weapon possession that are required on the military bases I grew up on,” McAlister said.
With the unlikeliness of a repeal before the law goes into effect on Aug. 1, 2016, the debate must see a switch from complete opposition to responsible enforcement in order to reach any realistic solution.
Arevalo is a journalism freshmen from McAllen. Follow her on Twitter @alexparevalo3.