Amid growing concerns regarding gun violence and gun control, the University of Texas at Austin has begrudgingly allowed students and staffers to carry concealed handguns on campus, including in classrooms.
Gregory L. Fenves, who became president of the school shortly after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law allowing concealed handguns on Texas' college campuses, had his own reservations regarding the matter. But he reluctantly complied with the state’s new campus carry law after it generated intense controversy.
“I do not believe handguns belong on a university campus, so this decision has been the greatest challenge of my presidency to date,” Fenves wrote in an open letter to students and staff. “I empathize with the many faculty members, staffers, students and parents of students who signed petitions, sent emails and letters, and organized to ban guns from campus and especially classrooms. As a professor, I understand the deep concerns raised by so many.”
UT has allowed licensed holders to carry weapons for 20 years, but barred weapons inside buildings, including classrooms. However, the new law that goes into effect on Aug. 1 will change all that.
Under the new policy, people with a license to carry a concealed weapon would be required carry it in a holster, without a chambered round of ammunition. They can bring their weapon to classrooms, but not to sporting events, mental health counseling, disciplinary hearings and science laboratories. Concealed handguns will be mostly banned in residence halls, except in common areas or if carried by a student's family members or dorm staffers.
“Many parents of current and prospective students have communicated to me their grave concerns about allowing handguns on the UT Austin campus, especially in university housing and classrooms,” Fenves wrote in a separate letter to University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven. “But as president of the University of Texas at Austin, I am responsible for adhering to the requirements of SB 11” — the law that makes Texas the eighth state to allow licensed citizens to carry concealed weapons on college campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The university president also said the professors fear discussing grades with students carrying guns.
UT campus in Austin is one of the 10 biggest college campuses in the United States with more than 50,000 students. Scores of student and faculty groups have petitioned and rallied against the measure with more protests reportedly planned in coming days.