On Thursday, Gun-Free UT held a rally on the Main Mall protesting campus carry, which was widely attended by professors and corresponded with a recent petition by professors banning guns from their classrooms. It was countered by a protest by members of College Republicans and Young Conservatives. Although well-intentioned, the Gun-Free rally missed a crucial point in this issue: Campus carry is coming and has a firm Aug. 1, 2016 arrival date. The time for all-out protest came and went, long ago.
Some Gun-Free UT rally attendees expressed hope that the demonstration would inspire administrators to change the law. While the rally will surely inspire some response from some governing agency, and although administrators have parroted nearly unanimous opposition to the absurd law, it is not within their power to dictate the law. If Gun-Free attendees wish to influence the implementation of campus carry at UT, the first step is recognizing that the battle over campus carry is over, and frankly, the entire campus population opposed to campus carry lost their chance.
The inevitability of campus carry’s implementation has not be open to debate since Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in June, but the battle may have ended even before that. Campus carry has been a hot-button topic for months in Texas, the fifth state to legalize concealed carry on college campuses. Texas experienced a Republican sweep in the 2014 election. In the Tea Party era, once-moderate politicians and leaders have flocked to the poles of their respective parties, because primary voting bases largely consist of the party’s most radical. In many ways, students gave this decision away nearly a year ago when they decided not to turn out on Election Day.
This does not mean that students, faculty and staff members did not have every opportunity to prevent the passage of this bill between Election Day and Abbott’s signature. Between social media campaigns from student activist groups, a petition signed by student leaders from across the state and one poorly attended campus rally in April, Longhorns tried to block the legislation — it just didn’t become a popular cause until it was too late.
Administrators cannot retroactively block campus carry, and professors cannot personally prevent firearms in the classroom, like they say they will — because campus carry is the law now.
I am as unhappy about it as any rally attendee. I am also completely supportive of campus engagement as the working group deliberates on this issue. But if the law’s opponents want to make an impact on the implementation of campus carry at UT, they need to stop fooling themselves that this law is presently reversible, and they need to devote their presence to the working group’s public forums first and foremost.
Smith is a history and humanities senior from Austin. She is the editor-in-chief. Follow her on Twitter @claireseysmith.