Following the horrific mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, along with the tragic murder of a Texas Tech University police officer, critics of Texas’ campus carry law, which allows licensed Texans to carry concealed handguns on state university campuses, have not hesitated in renewing their grievances with a law that has succeeded in Texas for over a year and in other states for over a decade. This is done despite the absence of any connection between these events and campus carry.
As news developments in Lubbock unfolded, campus carry’s opponents eagerly directed blame to the 15-month-old law before obtaining all of the facts. The Texas Tech shooter’s age and prior criminal record barred him from a license-to-carry permit, but this did not stop him from feloniously possessing a firearm on campus and murdering a peace officer. Critics blame campus carry for normalizing the idea of guns on campus and ignore the fact that multiple shootings occurred on Texas college campuses (by unlicensed individuals) in the decade preceding enactment of the campus carry law.
It is unclear why campus carry is being discussed with the events of Las Vegas. Clearly, that shooting involved neither concealed carry nor a college campus, yet the opponents of campus carry seem anxious to try and link the concealed carry of firearms on college campuses to this appalling massacre at a music festival.
On Nov. 5, Sutherland Springs became the site of the worst mass shooting in the state’s history, carried out by a man whose record of domestic violence disqualified him from a license-to-carry permit and should have prevented him from purchasing a firearm. One day after this atrocity in Central Texas, some campus carry opponents are already laboring to draw a tenuous connection to their cause célèbre.
Those of us who support campus carry must emphasize that the possession of a license-to-carry permit does not exempt an individual or location from being subject to violent crime. What campus carry does do is allow law-abiding individuals one additional means of recourse should they be confronted with a dangerous situation, ensuring that they are not automatically put at a disadvantage.
The debate over campus carry has been unjustly thrown into the broader gun control debate, as part and parcel of the conversation over bump-stocks, suppressors and “assault weapons.” Supercilious teachers’ associations and naive college freshmen reflexively seem to see a sniper attack with modified, pseudo-automatic rifles; a disturbed student who committed murder with a stolen gun; or a shooting rampage by a criminal with a history of domestic violence and say, “We told you so; that is why guns don’t belong on college campuses!”
These critics ignore that a licensed adult is only one-ninth as likely to be convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as is an unlicensed adult. These critics ignore that — as demonstrated by the Texas Tech shooting — any person willing to disregard state law and school policy can easily bring a gun onto a college campus, regardless of the rules on campus carry.
For years, groups like Students for Concealed Carry have presented facts showing campus carry does not make campuses less safe. If critics cannot prove that campus carry makes college campuses less safe and can only provide hypothetical worst-case scenarios, why deny law-abiding citizens the ability to carry on campus?
In the realm of political discourse, the burden of proof as to the potential harm that can be done by granting a right properly lies with those who are attempting to deny that right. We can observe more than a decade of experience with campus carry laws across the country and decades more of concealed carry, and none of these doomsday scenarios have come to pass.
The purpose of campus carry is often misconstrued as a misguided attempt by legislators to try and make college campuses safer. The goal of campus carry is and always has been to allow eligible individuals the proper means to defend themselves for their own personal protection and not the protection of the campus as a whole.
The law assures these individuals that concealed carry is consistently applied to similar places they go to throughout their day. If they are able to legally carry a handgun in their places of worship, restaurants, movie theaters, and even the Texas State Capitol Building, there is no reason they should not be able to do so on a college campus.
Quinn Cox is a student at UT-Austin. He writes for TribTalk, a publication of The Texas Tribune.