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Texas' New Campus Carry Law - 8 Common Misconceptions
Concealed Handguns Allowed inside Texas College Buildings/ Classrooms, Starting August 1, 2016
Campus Carry was one of two controversial gun laws passed during the 2015 Texas legislative session and signed into law by Governor Greg Abbot in June of 2015.
Campus Carry allows licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns inside buildings on Texas' college campuses, starting on August 1, 2016 for four year colleges and August 1, 2017 for junior colleges. However, even a year after it was passed into law, Campus Carry is still a source of confusion for many people.
I'm Curious. Before You Read, What are Your Thoughts on Campus Carry? (this is totally optional, you can continue reading below)
1. Is Open Carry Allowed on College Campuses?
Open Carry is absolutely NOT allowed on college campuses. This is a huge detail that still confuses people. Even though Texas' Open Carry and Campus Carry laws were passed and signed into law around the same time, they are not mutually inclusive.
The issue of Open Carry on college campuses is specifically addressed in the language added to the Texas Penal Code (§46.035) by Texas' Open Carry law. The new language specifically prohibits Open Carry anywhere on college campuses, not just in buildings:
Despite the fact that this information is publicly available on the Texas Legislature's website, some journalists and other writers are still publishing stories which falsely claim that Open Carry will be allowed on college campuses when the law goes into effect.
As well as several more, too many to list here.
In addition, the photos used in articles about Campus Carry often depict Open Carry demonstrations, or even rifles, both of which have absolutely nothing to do with Campus Carry. This can be very misleading.
2. Can Anyone Carry Any Kind of Gun They Want to on a College Campus?
No. Texas' handgun licensing law only applies to handguns, and Campus Carry only applies to the concealed carry of handguns. Open carry of long guns is legal in most public places in Texas without a license, but that's a topic for another day because it is not relevant to the issue of Campus Carry.
Additionally, not everyone will be allowed to carry a concealed handgun into an institution of higher education. Only those licensed to carry a handgun in the state of Texas, or any reciprocating state, may carry a concealed handgun into buildings on a college campus. And not just anyone can get that license, either.
The Texas handgun licensing law sets the age requirement for obtaining a license to carry a handgun at 21 years of age, or 18 years of age for those with a military background. This age requirement is not changing when Campus Carry goes into effect.
In addition to the age requirement, applicants must complete a class covering the law as well as safe handgun storage and use. They must also pass a background check, not be a convicted felon (in short), not be mentally unstable, etc. You can see a full list of the eligibility requirements here (Texas Government Code §411.172).
- Texas DPS - CHL Conviction Rates Reports
If you want a better idea of who may be carrying concealed handguns on campus, head over to the Texas DPS website and take a look at crime statistics for license holders compared to the general population.
To put it simply, not every single individual who sets foot on a college campus qualifies for a license to carry a handgun in Texas, and not everyone who would qualify actually has a license. Even further, not everyone on campus who has a handgun license may choose to carry their concealed handgun at school.
These requirements are made clear in the law itself and on the DPS website. However, some writers have a tendency to generalize Campus Carry by failing to mention the fact that only handgun license holders will be allowed to carry on campus. This can be very misleading, whether or not the author is intentionally claiming that the law allows everyone to carry on campus.
There are more, but again, too many to list here.
Believe it or not, I managed to stumble upon an article whose author appeared to believe believe that Campus Carry allows students to carry AR-15's to class. I hope they were being facetious or that I misread something, but this is the type of misinformation we are dealing with here.
3. Can License Holders Carry Anywhere They Want to on Campus?
No. Texas' Campus Carry law has provisions specifically allowing for reasonable carve-out areas that should remain gun-free. Each university president must consult with students, faculty and staff about these exclusion zones.
In addition to gun-free zones put in place by university presidents, there are also places on campuses that ban license holders from carrying a concealed handgun under existing Texas law, including stadiums, polling places, courthouses, and others. These places will remain off limits to handguns once Campus Carry goes into effect in August.
4. Can Public Universities Ban Handguns From Their Campuses?
No. Amid the controversy surrounding Campus Carry in Texas are the voices of academics calling for public university presidents to indirectly ban concealed handguns from their schools. Among those voices are three professors at the University of Texas at Austin who have sued the university president (Gregory Fenves), the UT board of regents, and the Texas Attorney General (Ken Paxton) for the ability to ban concealed carry in their individual classrooms. Details on this lawsuit can be found here.
However, under the new law, the president is only allowed to make reasonable rules regarding where handguns can be carried as long as they do not ban, or effectively ban, concealed carry on campus (§411.2031(d-1)):
Private universities can choose to either implement or opt out of Campus Carry.
5. Does Campus Carry Only Apply to Students, Faculty and Staff?
Many news sources covering Texas Campus Carry say the law gives students who have a license to carry the ability to carry concealed handguns on college and university campuses. Some sources even claim that the law allows all students to carry guns to class.
The first claim is only partially true, and the second is blatantly false. the law only allows those with a valid license to carry a handgun in Texas to carry concealed inside campus buildings, whether they are a faculty or staff member, a student, or just a visitor.
6. Haven't College Campuses Always Been 'Gun Free Zones'?
You might think that a new law with the name 'Campus Carry' would imply that there was no concealed carry on university campuses before, but that's actually not the case in Texas.
Since the passage of the Texas concealed handgun law in the 1990's, concealed carry has been allowed on the grounds of institutions of higher education in Texas, but not inside buildings. With the new Campus Carry law, license holders will no longer be prohibited from carrying concealed handguns into classrooms and most buildings on university campuses.
7. Isn't Mixing College Kids, Guns, and Alcohol a Bad Idea?
It is most definitely a bad idea to mix guns with alcohol consumption.
That's why it is already illegal for a license holder to carry their handgun inside a business that derives 51% or more of its income from alcohol sales which are intended to be consumed on its premises (Texas Penal Code §46.035(b)(1)):
Additionally, it is already unlawful for a license holder to carry a handgun while intoxicated (Texas Penal Code §46.035(d)):
So essentially, since bars are already covered by the 51% law and it is already illegal for a license holder to carry while intoxicated, the hypothetical scenario of drunk college kids running around and shooting each other is a nonissue. If it was going to be a problem come August 1, then it would already be an issue with normal concealed carry in public right now.
While we're on the subject of drunk college students, we'll touch on Sororities and Fraternities. Campus Carry does not change anything regarding concealed carry on private property. As long as a Sorority or Fraternity house is on private property rather than university owned property, nothing is changing for them.
In an even broader scope, remember that Campus Carry is Campus Carry. The law changes nothing about the legality of concealed carry outside of buildings owned by public universities, no matter how many college students may be present.
8. School Shootings Are Extremely Rare, so Why do Students Need to Carry Guns to Class?
While mass shootings are a valid concern, they are not the sole reason a license holder might want to carry a concealed handgun to class.
To start off with, license holders are not police officers, and their handgun license is not a license for vigilante justice. In actuality, their license is intended to facilitate their right to defend themselves from life-threatening bodily harm. Hunting down a shooter is contrary to what a license holder is taught, and is not an act of self defense.
Although an armed student could potentially stop an active shooter who enters their classroom, the Campus Carry law was not passed as a plan to stop a school shooting in a Texas college, should one ever happen in the future. Its intent was to afford students and staff the same rights to self-defense inside college buildings and classrooms, as well as on their way to and from school, that they have nearly everywhere else off campus.
This is especially pertinent for students or staff who go to the university during the day, where they are statistically safer than in other public places, and then have to go home or go to work in a high-crime area, often at night. Even if this is not the case for a particular person, violent crimes can happen even in statistically 'safe' places, and this law was passed to allow individuals a means for personal protection, both on and off campus.
What do You Think About Campus Carry?
Photos used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.
© 2016 Ryan Askew