UT President William Powers Jr. continues to oppose concealed carry on campus


President William Powers Jr. has not signed a petition circulated by university presidents around the country that seeks to encourage lawmakers to place restrictions on firearms, but a spokesperson said Powers will not support measures that would allow concealed firearms on campus.

The open letter is circulated by a group called College Presidents for Gun Safety, which formed in response to the Dec. 14 shooting that killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. The letter asks lawmakers to oppose legislation that allows guns on campuses and in classrooms.

While Powers has not signed the letter, he co-authored a separate letter published Jan. 2 with 10 other university presidents who serve on the executive committee of the Association of American Universities. That letter urges President Barack Obama and Congress to take action to prevent gun violence in the U.S. by focusing on three areas: gun control, care for the mentally ill and media violence.

So far, the only Texas institutions whose presidents have signed the College Presidents for Gun Safety’s open letter are Trinity University, Schreiner University, Southwestern University, Austin College and University of Dallas.

The open letter also asks lawmakers to end the gun show loophole, which allows buyers to purchase guns from unlicensed vendors without undergoing a criminal background check, reinstate the ban on military-style semi-automatic assault weapons along with high-capacity ammunition magazines. In addition, it pushes for required consumer safety standards for all firearms, access prevention laws and regulations to decrease manufacturing defects.

“The time has long since passed for silence and inaction on the issue of reasonable and rational gun safety legislation,” the letter states. “We hereby request that our nation’s policy leaders take thoughtful and urgent action to ensure that current and future generations may live and learn in a country free from the threat of gun violence.”

Some lawmakers have indicated that the Texas Legislature may consider allowing concealed carry on college campuses. In an interview with the Austin American-Statesman, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston and chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, said he would be surprised if the Texas Legislature did not address concealed carry on college campuses during this session.

Josh Havens, deputy press secretary for Gov. Rick Perry, said the governor would consider guns-on-campus legislation if the Legislature approved it.

“Gov. Perry continues to believe that a person, who is licensed and has gone through the appropriate training, ought to be able to carry their weapon with them anywhere in the state,” Havens said.

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said Powers would not support legislation supporting concealed carry on college campuses that may be filed in the Texas Legislature.

“He is not in favor of legislation that allows guns on campus,” Susswein said. “He does not believe it would enhance safety on campus.”

UT System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste Caputo said UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa will also oppose legislation that allows guns on campus. Cigarroa voiced concerns about a proposed bill during the 2011 legislative session that would have allowed guns on campus in a letter to Perry.

“His stance has not changed,” LaCoste-Caputo said.

Printed on Tuesday, January 15th, 2013 as: President Powers against concealed carry on campus