Alum recalls ’66 shooting, urges against guns in school

AddThis

Jim Bryce held back tears as he recounted memories of 45 years ago, when he was supposed to meet a friend for lunch at the Texas Union, but saw a shooter inside the UT Tower on the news. Bryce and classmate Sandra Wilson were students at UT in 1966, when Charles Whitman, a student and former Marine, opened fire atop the Tower, killing 14 people and wounding 31. Both testified before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee about the concealed carry on campus bill Tuesday along with current students, including members of student lobbying group Invest in Texas. The bill would allow concealed handgun licensees to carry handguns on college campuses. Concealed carry is allowed most places in Texas, but college campuses, churches, bars and post offices are some gun-free zones. Bryce told committee members to vote against the bill, continuing his harrowing account of the shooting, which claimed the life of one of his friends. “Sandra was shot in front of what is now the Co-op,” Bryce said. “We’re afraid that allowing others to conceal on campus would create a [confusing] situation where the police could not adequately protect everyone.” Wilson said she was lucky to recover, but that she could not believe state lawmakers were even considering the bill after what happened years ago. “We do not need every person carrying their gun trying to protect themselves,” Wilson said. “We have the police and security people — that’s fine.” Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, said the bill was nearly identical to the one he filed last Legislative session in 2009, which the Senate never voted on. He said the youngest concealed handgun license holders, ages 21-25, make up only 7 percent of licensed holders — or 7,399 out of 102,133. “This bill is a matter of personal protection,” he said. “The idea that it will result in any increase in violence is unfounded. Some of the same misguided predictions were used by opponents of the original concealed handgun legislation in 1995. Licensees have proven consistently they are law abiding and responsible.” A bill amendment added before the hearing would allow private campuses to opt out and allow students and staff a referendum on the issue. Wentworth said a similar amendment was only added to appease opposition last session. Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo also weighed in on the issue saying that university campuses are not the best environments to have armed individuals. “One of the concerns we have in law enforcement is that if we have a concentration of armed folks that are not like police who are readily identifiable, is distinguishing the friendly armed persons from unfriendly armed persons,” he said. Acevedo said he has heard supporters say the bill would allow carriers to protect themselves in the event of a campus shooting, but those chances are minimal. “I’m not sure what we are trying to fix in terms of safety on campus,” he said. “I think we’re maybe creating a fix for something that is not a problem.”