In a report released Thursday, UT-Austin’s Campus Carry Working Group recommended that concealed handguns be allowed in classrooms, but not in dormitories, health facilities, childcare centers, polling places, and pre-K-12 campus visits, among others. The report also recommended that faculty and staff be allowed to decide whether or not to permit guns in their offices.
The report is the result of three months’ deliberation by a group of 19 professors, staff, and students—and heated debate from the university and Austin community, including this week’s news that a gun-rights group plans to stage a mock shooting near the campus. It offers 25 recommendations for how to implement the controversial Senate Bill 11, which makes it legal for concealed handgun license holders to bring their guns to Texas public university campuses. The law goes into effect on Aug. 1, 2016.
The law allows universities some discretion in choosing where and when guns may be carried on campus, but it does not allow for restrictions that “generally prohibit” the carry of licensed handguns. In the report, the working group concluded that banning guns from classrooms would violate the law.
“The primary on-campus activity for most of our more than 50,000 students is going to class,” the report says. “Excluding handguns from classrooms would have the effect of generally prohibiting license holders from carrying their handguns and so would violate S.B. 11.”
In a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, working group chair and UT Law professor Steve Goode said that the group considered installing handgun lockers, so that carriers could stow their guns before and after class and other activities. But their research found that the risk of an accidental shooting increases each time a gun is transferred to or from a locker, he said.
“Having lockers all over campus means that you’re going to have lots of additional transfers. And in particular, it’s going to happen when people are on their way to classes and often in a rush,” he said. “That’s almost a recipe for accidental discharge. We believe the danger with regard to safety outweighed any possible benefits that would accrue with banning them in classrooms.”
The working group recommends that guns be prohibited from dormitories, with the exception of common areas, parents visiting their children, and University Apartments. Goode said that since most UT students live off-campus, this ban does not violate the “generally prohibitive” section of S.B. 11.
“Only about 1 percent of our students who are eligible to get handgun licenses live in on-campus residence halls,” he said. “So keeping them out of on-campus residence halls affects only a tiny sliver.”
Texas law already prohibits guns at pre-K-12 schools, hospitals, polling places, legal hearings, and sporting events. The report also recommended that signs be posted whenever UT facilities are being used for school visits, voting, hearings, and other scenarios where guns are not permitted.
The group also urged UT to evaluate its mental health services, implement training for all students and employees on how to respond in an active shooter scenario, and collect and analyze data on the effects of campus carry.
The report now goes to UT president Greg Fenves; Fenves will submit recommendations to the Board of Regents, which has the final say.
“Every member of the working group thinks it would be better if we did not have concealed handguns in classrooms,” Goode said, “but S.B. 11 is the law, and we were asked to make recommendations that would comply with the law and ensure campus safety.”
View the full report below:
Photo by Marsha Miller
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