Baylor gun proposal offers lesson for legislators in Austin

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Last Thursday, the Baylor University Student Senate in Waco passed a resolution calling for students to be able to bring their licensed concealed handguns on campus. In a closed session of the assembly, Baylor students voted — with objection — to allow students to bring firearms onto campus, citing recent school shootings. The bill must still be signed or vetoed by Dominic Edwards, the Baylor student body president, and eventually approved by the Baylor Board of Regents. However, even if Edwards signs it, or the Senate overrides his veto, the administration must still assent to the measure. Thus far, administrators have been tepid, citing their own security concerns.

The proposal largely mirrors one the State Legislature came perilously close to passing last year, which would have only affected public universities (Baylor is private), including UT-Austin. That bill stalled in committee, but with a new crop of increasingly conservative leaders at the Capitol, it will likely be brought up again — and passed — next session.

Like any other contentious flashpoint issue, the "guns on campus" debate (or, more broadly, any type of gun control), does not have many unbiased studies that can prove whether allowing guns on campus makes students safer. Critics point out that no one's concealed handgun has ever stopped an infamous school shooter, while proponents point out not only that the scheme has not been implemented extensively enough, but that Good Samaritans have stopped some would-be mass murderers; it just doesn't get put in print.

Among the myriad proposals on this topic considered by the Legislature last session, there was one that appeared to be a novel compromise. The public university's administration, not the State Legislature, would have the final say over whether to allow guns on campus, much like the laws currently governing Baylor. Thus, universities in communities amenable to such a scheme, like Texas A&M University, would likely implement it. But at universities such as this one, where communities are largely opposed to guns on campus, the status quo could remain.

Baylor will end up doing what is best for its specific community and students. Instead of implementing a blanket policy, perhaps legislators should entrust public universities with the same responsibility.

Horwitz is an associate editor.