Texas has long been a breeding ground for gun rights debates — and its college campuses have become the latest focus of the conversation. More than half the members of the Texas House of Representatives have signed a bill that would allow concealed handguns on college campuses. Needless to say, this seems like a dangerous idea.
The current handgun law permits people 21 and older who pass a training course and a background check to carry concealed weapons, but private businesses, churches and schools — including colleges — are allowed to ban guns from their premises. The new bill, on the other hand, would prohibit colleges from banning concealed firearms on their premises. The debate comes only five months after a masked student gunman opened fire on the sprawling University of Texas campus in Austin.
Advocates of the bill argue that it is important to arm students for the purpose of self-defense; without the ability to hold a gun they are sitting ducks if a threat arises on campus. They frequently reference the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre, an instance where students could not defend themselves. But the idea that armed students would make for a safer campus by serving as an ad hoc SWAT team is questionable, at best.
The prospect of adding concealed handguns into the already volatile college atmosphere of drugs, alcohol and high student stress present on many campuses is appalling. Of course, all of those social issues are present outside campus gates — but mixing all of them together in such a confined area is a recipe for accidents, violence and unnecessary fear.
Utah and Colorado already have similar laws in place, laws that at the very least allow colleges the option of concealed guns on campuses. That Texas might follow their lead is not surprising, but the idea of concealed firearms being actively encouraged on campuses is frightening. A similar bill failed in the Texas legislature in 2009, but with current Governor Rick Perry’s fervent support and over half the House already committed to its passage, it could well go through this time around.
Regardless of the law’s ratification, the decision to carry firearms on college campuses will ultimately come down to the students themselves. Although it may be permitted, we can only hope that students will use their common sense and Texas campuses won’t turn into the Wild West.