Anticipation and uncertainty about campus carry has increased, especially as UT prepares to release campus carry rules within the next few weeks, ahead of the Aug. 1 implementation date. However, members from various groups involved in studying campus carry said they expect a relatively smooth rollout for the law’s implementation.
After studying other schools that have already implemented campus carry, Student Government President Xavier Rotnofsky said he expects the uncertainty about campus carry to gradually subside.
“We also found that a lot of these schools that have campus carry now haven’t necessarily seen an increase in gun-related violence and things like that,” said Rotnofsky, a Plan II senior who is on the UT campus carry working group. “It’s sort of like a perception issue. It goes to the minds of people that campus carry is a thing. The environment around campus sort of stabilizes.”
Matthew Valentine, a member of the faculty group Gun-Free UT, said most people who carry a concealed handgun on campus won’t have an accident, but he said a prohibition on campus carry would mostly eliminate the possibility gun accidents on campus.
“Idaho implemented campus carry not too long ago, and on the first week of classes after they implemented campus carry, there was a professor who had an accident in class and shot himself in the foot right in front of his students,” said Valentine, a Plan II lecturer. “Most of them won’t have an accident. Eventually, somebody will.”
Michael Barnes, legislative affairs director for the Graduate Student Assembly, said although few students may possess concealed handgun licenses, it is uncertain how many members of the public plan to carry concealed weapons on the UT campus.
"While (undergraduate) students may generally not be armed, unfamiliar individuals with no UT-affiliation may very well be, and there's no way to measure what percent of these folks will carry,” Barnes, a graduate student studying educational administration, said in an email.
Texas became the eighth state to allow campus carry in June 2015 when Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 11, requiring Texas public universities to allow concealed carrying of guns on campus. Every private university in Texas that has made a decision on campus carry chose not to allow guns on campus.
Erick Bruno, a member of Students for Concealed Carry, said he does not expect an uptick in criminal activity because of campus carry because gun owners are the “most law-abiding citizens out here.”
“[Your gun is] concealed, so no one knows who’s carrying,” said Bruno, a political science senior at UT-Dallas. “It will be one of those issues which will slowly fade away, and nobody will worry about it after the law is implemented in August.”
However, the singular nature of campus carry in Texas still leaves lingering concerns about the law’s implementation.
“No other state has a campus carry law like S.B. 11, and so the Working Group was unable to find significant guidance in other states’ implementation schemes,” the UT-Austin working group report said, noting that while there was no evidence that campus carry was linked to increased rates of sexual assault or increased campus violence, there have been several incidents of campus shootings and accidental discharges on college campuses.
Ultimately, the effects of campus carry will be determined by how individual campuses decide to phase in campus carry, Rotnofsky said.
“It really will come down to implementation,” Rotnofsky said. “It’s a new frontier for Texas because that hasn’t been done before, so in that regard, Texas public universities will be figuring out what that means.”