As your new Student Government president and vice president, we know it is our job to advocate for what is best for students and will maximize safety. House Bill 937, currently being considered by the Texas House of Representatives after the Senate passed its own version of the bill in March, would allow guns in classrooms on public university campuses. That’s why we think this bill is so dumb. Private universities are afforded the right to opt out, whereas public universities are not. Why are we, as a public university, not able to have a voice in what happens on our campus?
UT System Chancellor and former Navy SEAL Admiral William McRaven expressed his concerns about firearms on campus in a letter to legislative leaders in January, saying, “The presence of handguns...will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds.” Former Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa agreed, as do the chancellors from most major Texas university systems. Current UT President William Powers Jr. also expressed discontent with campus carry, as did Art Acevedo, the Austin police chief.
This bill, if it becomes law, will allow real firearms on campus. For some perspective, it would still be against University policy to bring pellet guns, airsoft guns, and prop guns — fake guns — onto campus. You’ll be able to bring a pistol to campus, but if it has an orange tip, get that out of here!
Students should have a say in what happens on their own campus. A change.org petition of UT students opposing campus carry had over 5,000 signatures as of Tuesday morning. UT’s Student Government passed a resolution officially opposing guns on our campus. According to a poll conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, over 60 percent of those polled believed that students should not be allowed to carry handguns on campuses or in dormitories, and over 70 percent believe college students should not be allowed to bring concealed handguns to class.
Many of the Texas schools affected by this legislation are as big, or bigger, than the cities where many of these legislators hail from. We have reached out to student body presidents and vice presidents across the state, and an overwhelming majority share our opinion. We, as fellow student representatives, have been elected to voice the needs of our students,and do not appreciate attempts in the Legislature to take local governance away from our communities.
Guns disrupt the academic atmosphere of a university. Sitting in a class, knowing that fellow students might be armed, alters the environment. For professors and teaching assistants, lecturing in front of a hall of hundreds of students knowing that some are potentially armed encroaches upon the sanctity of the classroom.
College students experience incredible amounts of academic, social, and family stress. RAs shouldn’t have to deal with guns in dorms on top of the multitude of stresses associated with on-campus living. Campus police shouldn’t have to worry about distinguishing between a well-intentioned citizen and a bad actor. Professors shouldn’t have to worry about students bringing guns to classes.
Claims that students are in danger on UT’s campus and need guns to protect themselves are unfounded. Since the UT Police Department began keeping online records in 2000, there have been no murders on the UT Austin campus. In a hypothetical active shooter scenario, who would you rather trust handling the situation: a trained UTPD officer or a sleep-deprived (probably hungover) upperclassman? HB 937 is attempting to fix a problem that does not exist.
The Texas Legislature is ostensibly trying to pass this bill for the good of campuses across the state. How is that the case if so much of campus is against this legislation? The best outcome would be for the bill to be defeated; otherwise, we implore the House to amend the current legislation with an opt-out clause that enables the stakeholders within a university to decide what’s best for campus.
The only guns that should be allowed on campus are our biceps. As good and strong boys, we stand staunchly against campus carry. We hope the Texas Legislature listens to campus opinion and grants all Texas universities the discretion to make decisions regarding their own safety.
Rotnofsky is a Plan II, linguistics, computer science and creative writing junior from Laredo. Mandalapu is a Plan II and economics senior from Sugar Land. They are Student Government president and vice president, respectively.