Campus opinions are split on the new so-called campus carry law, set to go in effect August 2016. In the meantime, university officials are planning discussions on “gun free zones” allowed under the law.
Prior to the passage of SB11, or campus carry, Vice President for Academic Affairs Jaimie Hebert, Ph.D., spoke publicly about SHSU’s and TSUS’s opposition to the bill during the university’s faculty senate meeting.
Other university administrators and faculty members across the state were publicly opposed to the bill, including University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven.
However, now that the legislation has passed, the university will implement the law in a way consistent with the state’s intent.
According to a campus-wide memo from University President Dana G. Hoyt on Tuesday, the university has formed a committee to “recommend rules and regulations for Sam Houston State University regarding the implementation of the legislation.”
The president’s committee is led by the Dean of the College of Criminal Justice, Phillip Lyons, Ph.D., and includes the university’s top officials involved with campus safety, such as the University Police Department Police Chief Kevin Morris. Student Government President Phillip Lund also sits on the committee, tasked with representing the student body.
In regards to the current state of campus safety at SHSU, Morris believes Bearkats have nothing to worry about.
“Overall, the university is a safe place,” Morris said.
Once campus carry goes into effect, UPD officers will need to make some adjustments, according to the department. However, those adjustments will be minimal, as officers have been trained to remain vigilant and ready to act at a moment’s notice. Morris was among the university officials critical of campus carry before it was passed.
Although some changes will need to be made, according to Morris, the new law will not cause a drastic change to how UPD responds to calls for service, seeing that officers already enter every situation with caution. As for any changes students should make when SB11 goes into effect, UPD reminds students that they should never hesitate to call the police.
“If you see something, and it doesn’t feel right, then yes – call us,” Morris said. “There’s nothing wrong with calling us. An officer can always go out and check the situation.”
As university administrators, faculty members and law enforcement personnel prepare for next August, students are also discussing the much-debated Texas law.
According to a 2012 research study of 1,317 SHSU students, the average student reported a 39 percent comfort level with the idea of students having concealed handguns on campus.
The Student Government Association discussed SB11 this summer and, according to Lund, are focusing on smaller parts of campus regarding handguns, like dorm rooms.
Student support for the law
As for the student body president himself, Lund welcomes the new law.
“It [SB11] puts the law on the side of the student and it puts the law on the side of those who want to protect themselves, wherever and whenever,” Lund said. “Even though I will have graduated by the time this law goes into effect, if I was a student during this time I would feel safe because I would be one of those students carrying.”
Junior Criminal Justice major Leah Boyd, President of the College Republicans student organization, echoes Mr. Lund’s sentiment.
Boyd said that she personally feels this law will make campus safer. Gun-free zones, however, in Boyd’s opinion, leaves law-abiding citizens unable to protect themselves.
“Criminals who are deciding to commit mass murders are targeting gun free zones, because they know that these people are unprotected,” Boyd said. “They’re going to bring a gun to these areas whether they’re gun free zones or not, because they intend to harm people, and they intend to break the law.”
As the University begins to develop its campus policies regarding SB11, Lund urges students to learn about the new law and voice their opinions on the matter.
“The best way for your voice to be heard is to let the SGA know your opinions on SB11,” Lund said.
In addition, Hoyt encouraged students to attend town hall meetings to share their opinions and concerns regarding campus carry with the city of Huntsville.
ABOUT CAMPUS CARRY
Senate Bill 11, signed into law by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this past June, effective August 2016, authorizes a concealed handgun license holder to carry a concealed handgun on a college campus in Texas, starting next August.
Carrying a concealed handgun on campus grounds and inside campus buildings will be legal. Private and independent institutions can opt out, but public universities, such as Sam Houston State University, cannot.
However, according to the legislation’s text, it does allow for university presidents to establish “reasonable regulatory provisions” when generating implementation and regulation policies.
According to SB11, these provisions could potentially include the storage of handguns in residential facilities on campus property, or other gun free zones that the university deems necessary.
The regulations SHSU decides to implement on campus cannot ban a license holder’s right to carry a concealed handgun on campus.
The legislation does not, however, explicitly say how big those zones can be or how many there can be.
There is one comment
Perhaps the administration and the campus police will now take threats to shoot employees made by chl holder employees seriously. A former director made a threat to shoot all of his employees once under the previous president and then me in particular a second time under the current president. Both times the former and the current police chiefs were informed. The second time the current university president was involved. "It's an HR thing," they said.
I was moved to another job on campus and the director who made the threats continued at his job at SHSU until he retired.