John Woods

While I agree with John Woods’ contention in his firing line Tuesday that the Election Supervisory Board’s disqualification of two major presidential candidates is unfortunate for the UT student body and will pose a significant hurdle for next year’s student body president, I completely disagree with his characterization of the ESB’s actions as akin to “election by fiat.”

The ESB and Election Reform Task Force worked tirelessly to craft a detailed, nuanced and unbiased election code paired with an equally thorough grievance, penalty and appeal process to ensure fair elections for UT voters and candidates. To the best of my knowledge, the ESB in its decisions to disqualify the candidates adhered to this process, which was proposed, approved and implemented by UT student representatives.

While some insiders and “student leaders” may be displeased that candidates they supported turned out to be incapable of following rules (a trait that makes one wonder why anybody regrets their removal from presidential consideration to begin with), claiming that the institution that was established, selected and adhered to procedures formulated by elected student representatives is the complete antithesis of fiat; it’s unbiased and fair governance. And claiming the ESB, instead of the thankfully former candidates who broke the rules to begin with, somehow deprived UT students of a democratic process is essentially equivalent to yelling at a referee when you don’t like a call.

By disregarding those rules designed to protect the integrity of these elections, the disqualified candidates acted in a manner that is clearly and overwhelmingly counter to the values of democracy, and the ESB used its student-granted authority to protect those democratic values and the election.

Douglas Luippold is a UT alumnus and former Daily Texan Associate Editor.

82nd Legislature

Two survivors of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting want Texas lawmakers to vote against bills that would allow students to carry concealed handguns on campus, they said at a press conference Thursday.

Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, filed a bill that could allow licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns on college campuses. Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, filed a similar bill in the House.

The Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence hosted the event at the Capitol on Thursday morning to persuade lawmakers not to vote for the bill. John Woods, a graduate representative in UT Student Government and the president of Students for Gun Free Schools, and Colin Goddard, the Brady Campaign’s assistant director of federal legislation, reflected on their experiences at Virginia Tech.

When English senior Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people on campus before Cho died by suicide, he shot Goddard four times. Goddard survived by lying still while the gunman continued to fire rounds of bullets around the room. Woods was not directly injured from the attacks, but his girlfriend was shot and killed.

Wentworth said in a statement that the Virginia Tech shooting is one reason he believes campus carry is essential.
“I want to put an element of doubt in a potential shooter’s mind,” he said. “And, if some deranged person does open fire in a Texas college classroom or dormitory, I want to give faculty, staff and students the ability to defend themselves.”

Gov. Rick Perry endorsed Wentworth’s bill. Although SG’s official stance is against concealed carry, some UT students support the legislation. Individuals older than 21 who get a concealed handgun license by having a clean mental health bill and completing a training program can carry a gun almost anywhere, including on the public streets that surround campuses.

“School campuses are not sanctuaries from crime,” said Jeff Shi, president of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus. “Allowing campus carry will give students and faculty the same means of protection they are afforded virtually anywhere else.”

Woods said allowing students to have guns on campus puts everyone on campus at risk. Because many campus shooters are suicidal, the threat of death at the hands of a concealed handgun licensee would not deter them, he said.

“We need to focus on the real underlying issue causing gun violence, such as mental health resources and things of that nature,” said SG President Scott Parks, who also spoke at the press conference.

President William Powers Jr. has also firmly denounced concealed carry on campuses.

“There need to be many other steps before we consider this legislation,” Goddard said. “Options, such as providing locks on the inside of doors to protect classrooms, is a good step toward making campuses a safer place for everyone.”

On the Lege

Higher education campuses in Texas have been designated gun-free zones for 15 years, but lawmakers will try again to change that this legislative session. Since the start of the 82nd Texas Legislature last month, Rep. Joe Driver, R-Garland, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, and Rep. David Simpson, R-Longview, have each filed bills to allow carrying licensed concealed handguns on campus. UT Division of Housing and Food Services follows institutional rules that ban all weapons and facsimiles on all areas of campus, subject to a third-degree felony. “If the legislation was to pass, DHFS would consult and work with legal counsel and University Administrators to make any changes to our current policy,” said Associate Director for Residence Life Hemlata Jhaveri, in a statement. University Operations spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon said the UT Police Department will not begin any campus planning until there is a final outcome on the bill. “If this legislation passed, it would make things a little more complicated,” Weldon said. “It’s always easier to regulate something that is not a law versus something that is. It’s easier for officers to monitor if someone is breaking the law than having to check who has a license to carry on campus and who doesn’t.” Driver also filed a campus concealed carry bill during the 81st Legislative Session, in 2009, with 75 co-sponsors. The bill passed in the Senate but died in the House, he said. If the bill passes, Wentworth said only licensed holders older than 21 years old who have completed a required class and passed a background check would be granted the additional rights. Wentworth, who co-sponsored the bill last session, said he was motivated to file a similar bill this session because of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, when English senior Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people on campus before he died by suicide. “[The bill] is designed to give faculty, staff and students a way to defend themselves when some deranged person comes on campus intending to commit suicide and take as many people with him as he can like they did at Virginia Tech several years ago,” Wentworth said. “A [gun-free zone] means it’s a victim zone, an area where law abiding people who will obey the law and not carry weapons will be the vulnerable, defenseless targets — sitting-ducks of people who come on campus in order to do harm.” John Woods, executive director of Students for Gun-Free Schools, experienced the Virginia Tech shooting as an undergraduate student. He said resources, such as the Behavior and Concerns Advice Line, are key in preventing campus incidents. “Let’s focus on prevention and what we can do to keep the guns out of the hands of people intending to do harm,” said Woods, a biology graduate student. “In the case of Virginia Tech, he had been ruled a danger to himself and others. Under federal law, he should not have been able to buy a gun. This idea that you can carry guns to stop a school shooting doesn’t make a lot of sense.” Woods said the bill would allow unrestricted campus carry to all facilities, unless there are amendments added to the bill. He said student communication with lawmakers is key in preventing the bill. “The way this bill is written, the University has no power [to regulate its implementation],” he said. “It’s not just that it allows concealed carry, it ties the University’s hands establishing reasonable regulations.” One amendment supported by both Woods and Students for Concealed Carry on Campus would allow campuses to regulate dorm policy. “Designated, secure storage areas for [concealed handgun license] holders living in dorms would be something we would not oppose, and the text of the bill gives power to universities to determine policy with firearms and dorm residents,” said the organization’s president Jeff Shi. The group will hold educational events throughout the semester, including a on-campus concealed handgun license class and a public shooting range day.