Chicago | Texas has become the eighth US state to allow guns on campuses, a controversial decision that comes on the 50th anniversary of a deadly sniper rampage at a university. The law, which was passed last year, from yesterday requires public universities in Texas to permit concealed weapons in campus buildings, although schools can impose limits on where guns are allowed.
At the University of Texas at Austin, where a mass shooting in 1966 claimed 14 lives, the institution’s president Gregory Fenves said the emotionally charged issue would likely be little noticed on campus. We have a very safe campus, Fenves said, And I think that will continue.
Texas joins seven other states which also allow concealed guns on university campuses, including Oregon, Colorado, and Wisconsin. Eighteen states specifically ban the practice. Critics of the law include three UT Austin professors who have sued, claiming their free speech rights would be violated, because students with guns would create a fearful atmosphere and stifle the open expression of ideas.
In an opinion piece published last week in The Dallas Morning News, Seema Yasmin, who teaches at a public university in Dallas, echoed that theme. I’m not scared of guns. I’m scared of this combination: term exam stress, undiagnosed mental illness and the ability to carry guns in university buildings, Yasmin wrote.
Proponents argue that allowing concealed weapons on campuses makes students and teachers safer, because any potential shooting attacks can be halted more quickly by armed citizens. As the new law went into effect, UT Austin dedicated a new sculpture on its campus grounds for the victims of the 1966 massacre.
The stone block sculpture is etched with the names of all 17 people killed by gunman Charles Whitman: the 14 killed on campus, his mother and wife whom he killed earlier in the day, and one more campus victim who would die of his wounds years later.
Whitman, a former military sharpshooter, climbed the university’s clock tower building and shot for more than 90 minutes before being killed. This massacre… occurred before terms like mass shooting, said Lloyd Doggett, a Texas congressman who 50 years ago was a student at UT Austin.
Now, such gun violence has become all too commonplace. Some of the shooting’s survivors attended the ceremony, including Claire Wilson James, who lost her unborn child when she was wounded.