Proposed campus concealed carry bill elicits differing viewpoints at forum

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Electrical engineering freshman Salini participates in the Gun Forum open discussion at the Student Activity Center Monday evening.  

Photo Credit: Austin McKinney | Daily Texan Staff

Students debating on whether concealed weapons would create a safer environment at UT revealed the deep discord over the benefits of concealed handguns on campus.

Law professor Sanford Levinson and Sherri Greenberg, director of the Center for Politics Governance, moderated the “Gun Control, Mental Health, and the Law” forum Monday, where students discussed the impossibility of finding an effective solution to the issues surrounding gun control laws. 

The introduction of a bill in the Texas Legislature to allow concealed handguns on campus has almost made “guns on campus” a loaded term, Danny Zeng, the vice president of College Republicans, said.

“I don’t think we’re really introducing anything new here,” Zeng said. “Guns are, in a way, already on campus. If you’re a licensed CHL holder, you’re allowed to carry your gun on public streets like Dean Keeton and 21st Street.”

Only 5 percent of CHL carriers fall in the 18- to 25-year-old category, Zeng said, making an influx of guns on campus unlikely. 

Educating students on mental health services available may provide better protection than allowing concealed handguns on campus, undeclared freshman Rishi Singh said. 

“I can understand the logic of wanting a CHL but I can’t understand why a student would need a handgun,” Singh said. “While I’m in a classroom, safety shouldn’t be a main priority, safety should be left up to the University. So it shouldn’t be up to a student to protect themselves or to protect the lives of other people in the classroom.” 

Gun owners’ constitutional rights are not threatened by any proposed gun control law, Levinson said.

“None of [the gun control bills] raise constitutional issues,” Levinson said. “All raise interesting issues of policy on which reasonable people can disagree.”

No legislation will eliminate gun crime, however it is important to focus on legislation that can make a difference, Greenberg, a former member of the Texas Legislature, said. Greenberg also said the biggest debates concern magazine size, and the gun show loophole as big as the “Grand Canyon,” referring to the fact that guns can be purchased at gun shows without a background check.

“If you can even prohibit a few people — who may not be of sound mind — from getting these guns and committing atrocities, then you have helped,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg said the issue of doctor/patient confidentiality complicates regulation regarding individuals who have mental health issues. Greenberg said many of the mass shootings on campuses occurred after signals of the shooter’s ill health were noted but not acted upon. 

“From a public policy standpoint, I think that we need to do more in the United States,” Greenberg said. “Get people the health care they need when it comes to mental health.”