Today, on the day the UT Tower clock will stop to honor the victims of Charles Whitman’s assault on the 40 Acres, Texas’ campus carry provisions created under SB 11 go into effect. Its effects will likely not be seen today, or any day in the next year. It’s up to us to guarantee that any looming disaster is put off for as long as possible.
Over the past year, thousands who represent every corner of campus have condemned this bill. Former UT chancellor and president Francisco Cigarroa and Bill Powers both criticized the bill, as did their successors, William McRaven and Gregory Fenves. Student Government, the Senate of College Councils and the Graduate Student Assembly all passed resolutions against it, with past and current SG executive alliances joining them. The Faculty Council, dozens of departments, thousands of faculty and staff and countless students have spoken out. Even the Texas Association of College and University Police Administrators voiced their opposition.
The Daily Texan’s opinion writers have written dozens of pieces on the specifics of why this bill threatens our campus. We’ve delved into effects it could have on recruitment and Muslim students and how pervasive inequality means only a
select few will ever have the opportunity to carry, as well as the problems that lie in its practical application, such as reminding students and faculty not to forget their guns in bathrooms.
Passing a bill with such great pushback from those who will actually suffer the consequences is enough to leave many speechless. But today, as we gather to mourn those lost after a “good guy with a gun” committed one of the most despicable acts imaginable, there is no room for silence.
When class begins on Aug. 24, we will also be learning how to live on a campus with concealed weapons. Students unfamiliar with guns may find this a stressful experience, perhaps feeling less likely to attend campus events or speak up in class out of fear. For those who have spent their entire lives around guns, the fierce pushback at the choice to carry will be novel. What we cannot allow this bill to do, then, is to bring us to release this tension on each other.
This challenge is not something we can take lightly. It takes law enforcement officials hundreds of hours of training to be able to use a firearm properly. Even so, many are woefully unprepared in crisis situations where they may need to de-escalate or not use lethal force. Expecting a group of time-strapped 21-year-olds to surpass that standard is so frighteningly unrealistic that we feel embarrassed to have to write about it.
Yet we know that no amount of protest will undo this change. Now is not the time for cynical comments and finger-pointing. Today, we must prepare ourselves for the inevitable.
For students who choose to exercise their right to carry, that means taking on the responsibility to do so well. Simply being the proud owner of a compact 9mm pistol and a license to carry only scratches the surface of what is necessary. While a regular trip to a firing range is an obvious step, we also strongly encourage training on de-escalation and crisis response. Studies show that people who are not trained on how to handle the very sorts of active shooter situations this law purportedly aims to address are unable to respond effectively, often injuring themselves and others in the process. And don’t just take our word for it — the NRA encourages and offers extensive training courses for gun owners at every level of experience.
Given the unlikelihood of these skills ever being used, the greatest challenge lies in guaranteeing our classrooms are still equipped to tackle the largest problems our world faces. This means both gun owners and those opposed to weapons on campus actively working with each other to solve joint goals of reducing violence, instead of devolving into political squabbling. The stakes are simply too high not to.
In spite of all the criticism this law has faced, we would prefer the gun advocates be right that our campus will be a safer place because of it. We cling to our strong belief that will not be the case, but would rather help find solutions than stand still and make matters worse. Today, we pause to reflect on the losses that have wounded us so greatly, but know that tomorrow, the Tower’s clock will move on again, just as we will have to.
Correction: This piece has been updated to include the most recent resolution the Senate of College Councils passed against campus carry.