HBCUs React to Day One of Texas Campus Carry Laws

Students, administrators show concern and strategy for maintaining safety

Students, administrators show concern and strategy for maintaining safety

Gary Coronado — Houston Chronicle

Students, faculty, staff and anyone else who finds themselves on a public college campus in Texas is allowed to carry a licensed gun, starting today.

Never mind that the law goes into effect on the 50th anniversary of the University of Texas at Austin’s mass shooting, the first non-combat shooting of its kind in U.S. history, never mind that we’re all just weeks away from police and civilian shootings which have deepened divides between people along racial and political lines.

Today, we’re allowed to walk the campus with guns on us. But what’s the impact for tomorrow, class in a few weeks, the argument between drunk folks during homecoming in a few months, the enrollment in a few years if something does happen?

“I am concerned about the open carry laws because, despite its intentions, it promotes a potentially unsafe environment across campus,” said Prairie View A&M University senior history major J’Neia Stewart “I definitely feel that my campus could do a better job of educating the students on the open carry law as it relates to the campus as well as enforcing gun safety or gun free zones. I think that allowing students to carry guns is the opposite of helpful.”

Stewart, a New Orleans native, cites recent off-campus shootings as an example of what can go wrong when tempers flare and guns are accessible, particularly in the hands of young people. She’s hopeful that dialog will empower students to understand the laws, and the dangers associated with them.

“Situations can get inflamed already in a college setting and having people who can walk around carrying guns be in a position to escalate situations even further is deeply concerning. I believe my campus should hold seminars discussing exactly what this law is and what it means in relation to PVAMU.”

Texas Southern University officials today released a statement on the new laws, and a list of campus locations which prohibit guns, including all residence halls, the campus student life center, and several academic buildings.

The Texas Southern University Police Department, due to the unique location and configuration of TSU’s campus, has developed a campaign to educate our community on the requirements to lawfully participate in Senate Bill 11. It is critical that all members of the TSU community know and understand the difference between campus carry and open carry. Please note that open carry is strictly prohibited from all institutions of higher education in the state of Texas, including Texas Southern University. Any student, staff, faculty member, or visitor seen unlawfully and openly carrying a weapon will be subject to TSU’s disciplinary action and criminal prosecution. We will continue to set safety as a top priority for all students, faculty, staff and campus visitors.

Last fall, a rash of shootings around and on the Texas Southern campus culminated in a student being murdered and several arrests. Former TSU President John Rudley, in the hours following the shooting, talked about the ease with which students and non-students could get guns, and how the campus carry laws would compound safety efforts.

“Our primary mission is education. Now we got to deal with people who have licenses to carry guns on our campus. So wouldn’t you think that would be a problem? It’s kind of to me like it’s a perfect storm,” Rudley said. “We’re here to educate students, we’re not here to try to referee between a gun battle between a person who has a right to carry a gun and a student who may just be an innocent bystander and gets shot accidentally because a person who has a license is on campus.”