February 01, 2009
Big (gun)man on campus

Did you ever wish you could pack heat on a college campus? Maybe someday soon, you'll be able to.

Michael Guzman, a 25-year-old Texas State University senior and Marine veteran, takes his Kimber Ultra Carry II handgun just about everywhere he goes. Except to school.

Texas lawmakers, how­ever, are crafting ways to allow licensed handgun owners to tote their guns more easily. One proposal would let guns be carried on campuses, and another would allow licensed handgun owners to openly brandish their guns in public.

Together, the two issues are likely to be the most contentious gun-related laws of the session.

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, is preparing the campus concealed-carry gun measure. He calls it a "safety protection bill" for students and faculty.

"I don't want to wake up one morning and hear on the news that some madman went on a Texas campus and picked off Texas students like sitting ducks," Wentworth said. "I'm doing what I can to prevent that from happening in Texas."

Yes, we wouldn't want to discourage anyone's John McClane fantasies. Jokes aside, I don't as yet see any bill authored by Sen. Wentworth that addresses this, so I can't really say much more than that, but I do have a question: Is this only intended for public universities, or for all of them, public and private? I can see the justification for the former, but if it's the latter, should the state be imposing on them like this? Private universities restrict a number of otherwise-legal things their students can do - I don't see why this shouldn't be one of them. There may be constitutional issues as well - what if there's a religious school that bans guns because it considers them to be sinful? Like I said, I don't see a bill yet, but that will be something to look for.

As for the other issue:

At present, people with handgun permits have to keep their weapons concealed.

Ian McCarthy, a 22-year-old online marketing entrepreneur in Austin, wants to be able to brandish one openly.

"Criminals want an easy target. When they see you can fight back, they're going to go somewhere else," McCarthy said.

He is a member of the national pro-gun group OpenCarry.org, which has raised more than $10,000 online to buy radio and billboard ads across the state and has collected more than 53,000 online Texas signatures in favor of changing the law.

I've already said that I'm supportive of this effort, but I still can't read about it without thinking of something Molly Ivins wrote way back when the concealed-carry law was being debated. She suggested that everyone who was carrying be required to wear a propeller beanie so the rest of us would know who we're dealing with. You could say this would have the same effect.

On a side note, I see that the two groups mentioned in this story are working at cross-purposes. That ought to add an interesting angle to the debates.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 01, 2009 to That's our Lege

I think legal concealed carry on campus is a great idea. There really is something very unsettling to me about creating a gun-free zone, and then failing to protect it with police, and the campus killings indicate there is a problem along these lines. At least airports have lots of police after the metal detectors. It was extremely poignant and touching for me to read about the elderly Va Tech professor, an Auschwitz survivor, who had survived the horrors of anti-Semitism and Facism, who then died while holding the door shut and ordering his engineering students out the window!

Can we not honor him by saving "never again" at least allowing those who have proven themselves worthy to state authorities to continue to discreet carry sidearms onto campus?

Good point about the public vs. private universities, though. The private property rights trump concealed carry. If that were not the case, then there would be a legal precedent for forcing private property owners to allow concealed carry against their wishes, which would be a MOST dangerous precedent.

Also, I am not in favor of guns in dorms. That just sounds like trouble to me. If you're a student, over 21, have a CHL, and want to have a gun around and on your person... get an apartment.

I am in favor of a limited sort of open carry, which would be granted only to the CHL licensees, not just any random person who wanted to stride out into the world wearing a sidearm. That sounds very stupid. At which point I suppose we would have to rename to Texas Concealed Handgun License to the Texas Handgun Carry License (concealed or open).

BTW, I was looking at the CHL programs of other states, WA state in particular, because I might move there if I get kicked out of the oil patch, and the TX program is much tougher, and much more expensive. I have a lot of confidence the pool of CHL licensees is an exceedingly safe cohort, compared to the general populace.

Posted by: Peter Wang on February 1, 2009 9:31 AM

What I find offensive about all of this is the perception that what happened at Virginia Tech had to do with gun control. That someone shouldn't have been able to buy a gun. That someone else should have been able to carry a gun on campus. That either would have prevented the tragedy.

It had nothing to do with gun control. It had to do with the public attitude about stalking. That young man had been charged with stalking two female students at Virginia Tech and was supposed to be in counseling according to the court. The university just assumed he was. And just assumed the situation was not something they needed to be concerned with anyway. After all, as the public relations director of Sam Houston State University put it after a student there was gunned down in her dorm by someone who had been stalking her, stalking is just some sort of "obsessive-type thing."

It is much more. And was what should have been focused on after Virginia Tech. Not gun control. Or the right to carry guns on our campuses.

As for the argument that allowing students to carry guns, openly or not, will make our campuses safe the same argument could be made about our elementary schools. Let's not forget Columbine.

I doubt the bill will pass but if it does no doubt everyone will learn why it was a bad idea when a drunk student shoots someone for no real reason other than they "thought" they were "up to something."

The student at Sam Houston State University might have been saved by a metal detector and an entry system.

But of course the bubbas can't carry metal detectors and entry systems on their hips and become the "big men on campus."

And they're the ones pushing it. The ones most likely to get drunk and shoot someone for no real reason other than they "thought" they were up to something."

Posted by: Baby Snooks on February 1, 2009 2:47 PM

Baby Snooks... how about allowing faculty and staff who have CHLs to carry on campus? Let's forget about the Big Men on Campus for a moment... how about the tweedy men and women on campus?

Posted by: Peter Wang on February 2, 2009 8:18 AM
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