CBS Austin and The Daily Texan hosted a town hall Monday at the AT&T Conference Center to discuss the campus carry law with panelists from both sides of the debate.
Senate Bill 11, more commonly referred to as the campus carry law, went into effect Aug. 1 and allows license holders to carry concealed handguns in classrooms. Since its introduction in the Legislature last year, the law has been a topic of debate on campus. The town hall audience was invited to ask questions during the event, and those who couldn’t make it asked questions through Facebook and Twitter.
The five panelists included four people representing different campus carry arguments, with two on each side. Bob Harkins, associate vice president of Campus Safety & Security, also participated but stayed neutral.
The law states that license holders must conceal their firearm at all times. Harkins said at the panel that if you see a gun on campus, you should call 911.
Concealed carry has been allowed on campus, but not in buildings, since the introduction of the concealed handgun license in 1996.
Ana López, a panelist and vice president of Students Against Campus Carry, said she has received death threats for her involvement with the protests against the law last week. She believes that guns on campus will affect women more negatively than men.
“I feel less safe because [women] are disproportionately affected by this,” Lopez said “We are the victims of domestic violence that is [exacerbated] in the presence of guns. It can only be worsened when one person has a firearm.”
In July, three professors sued the University in an attempt to block the campus carry law from taking effect. The lawsuit stated that the law would not offer professors equal rights under the Fourteenth Amendment because it required them to allow guns in classrooms.
The judge ruled that the plaintiffs failed to establish a likelihood of success and denied the lawsuit two days before the fall semester started.
One of the arguments in the lawsuit claimed having guns in classrooms would hinder academic discussion when debating controversial topics. Michael Cargill, owner of Central Texas Gun Works and one of the panelists, does not believe it will be an issue.
“It’s not an issue at the Texas State Capitol, where you have your most heated debates take place,” Cargill said. “That’s where laws are written. Those people hate each other there. They argue, they fight, but no one’s ever pulled a gun out and shot anyone.”
Government professor Bryan Jones, one of the five panelists, said campus carry would make it easier for depressed students to commit suicide. The addition of the law would not factor into this, Cargill said.
Government freshman Maria Düster attended the panel and hopes the voices of students and faculty members are heard going into the next Legislative session.
“Campus carry was passed by [a] Legislature that did not take the students’ and faculties’ opinions into consideration,” Düster said. “It was decided for us instead of with us.”