March 24, 2016; Los Angeles Times
Last year, laws were passed in Texas protecting the practice of carrying concealed firearms in the state’s public places. Gun rights advocates assert that such laws will make public places, including college campuses, safer, but students and teachers at the 56,000-student University of Texas at Austin believe they will have the opposite effect, and have taken to protesting. It is estimated that less than one percent, or about 500 of UT Austin’s 56,000 students, possess the state-issued concealed weapons permit required to legally carry a weapon on campus.
Fears of students packing heat might affect how professors grade, and the impact on future enrollment and recruitment of faculty is yet to be known. However, even now, the new law has had results: At least two professors have resigned, and a prospective dean of UT’s Moody College of Communication took himself out of the running for the job rather than deal with the gun issue.
One of the professors who left, Daniel Hamermesh, feared one of his 500 students “would ‘lose it,’ pull out [a] gun and shoot the instructor.” Hamermesh now teaches at the Royal Holloway University of London.
This topic has been in headlines for months, covering a variety of states and spanning from kindergartens to colleges. Law enforcement professionals are most concerned about the confusion created when a mass shooter is reported to be present: The innocent can become victims of those with concealed weapons whose training may not be at the level of police officers. Mass shooting scenarios, however, are not the only dangers that can spring from guns at schools. From those who believe they are entitled to better grades, to students attending parties where alcohol is prevalent and binge drinking probable, factoring guns into the college campus equation can provide very scary results.
If the presence of concealed guns on campus continues to deter teachers from working there, and prevents potential students from choosing UT, it’s possible that economics may change the minds of Texas lawmakers, with or without the protestors.—Marian Conway