School commemorates the 1966 shooting the same day as the start of a new state law allowing concealed handguns on public university campuses
A Texas law permitting concealed handgun license holders to carry their weapons into public university buildings, classrooms and dorms went into effect Monday – a date that coincides with the 50th anniversary of the mass shooting at the University of Texas.
Regarded as the first school shooting in modern American history, on Aug. 1, 1966, University of Texas student Charles J. Whitman’s climbed to the top of the university’s landmark clock tower and opened fire on people below. Whitman’s rampage lasted for 96 minutes, resulting in the death of 16 people and 32 others being injured. The attack ended when Whitman was shot to death by two police officers.
On Monday, the university dedicated a six-foot-tall red granite memorial inscribed with the victims’ names to mark the shooting’s 50th anniversary, the school’s first official memorial to recognize the tragedy. However, as the school commemorates one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history, a new state law also went into effect on Monday allowing concealed handguns on Texas’ public university campuses.
According to NBC News, with a recent uptick in mass shootings, a number of which have happened on college campuses, “proponents of the law say that an armed student body might be able to prevent such incidents, while critics fear the new measures might encourage more violence.”
The controversial statewide “campus carry” law was pushed by Texas’s Governor Greg Abbott and the Republican state Legislature. The new gun law will make Texas the ninth state to allow students to carry guns into campus buildings.
Here is a brief overview of how the “Campus Carry” law will work:
WHO CAN HAVE A CONCEALED HANDGUN ON CAMPUS?
Anyone who holds a Texas handgun license. To get one, a person must be at least 21 (18 if in the military) and pass both classroom and gun range training courses. There are also restrictions for people convicted of a felony, people charged with felonies and high-level misdemeanors or people with a history of mental illness.
ARE THERE ANY RESTRICTIONS ON WHERE GUNS WILL BE ALLOWED?
The law allows guns in buildings, classrooms and dorms, but more specific rules will differ from campus to campus, as each school is required to set their own guidelines.
At the University of Texas at Austin, where faculty and students vigorously protested the law, teachers will be allowed to declare their offices as gun-free zones. Dorm residents can have guns in common areas, such as dining areas and lounges, but not in their actual dorm room where they sleep. No storage of weapons is allowed in any dorm sleeping areas. Exceptions to the room restrictions will be made for visiting family members who are licensed to carry handguns.
At Texas A&M University in College Station, guns are allowed in dorm rooms and teachers must get permission from the administration to ban guns from their office.
State law still bans weapons from some campus areas, such as hospitals, chemical labs and sporting events.
WITH THE STATE’S OPEN CARRY LAW, WILL WEAPONS BE ON DISPLAY IN CLASS?
No. The open carry law specifically does not apply to college campuses. Any handguns on campus must be holstered and kept out of sight.
ARE GUNS ALLOWED AT PRIVATE SCHOOLS? COMMUNITY COLLEGES?
Private schools – such as like Baylor, Rice and Texas Christian – are permitted to ban guns on campus under the state law. Only one Texas private school – Amberton University – has chosen to allow guns on campus. Two-year community colleges in Texas have until August 2017 before the must allow weapons on campus, allowing them additional time to adjust for security and other measures.